Bicycle Safety Tips

Biking is a great way to exercise and explore trails or a long country road. For some it is also an easy way to get around town or commute to work. No matter why you ride a bike, make sure you know how to stay safe.

Common bicycle accidents are due to:

  • Collision with a car or another bicycle
  • Loss of control due to many reasons, such as:
    • Problems stopping quickly
    • Riding a bike that is too large
    • Riding too fast
    • Two people riding on the same bike
    • Striking a rut, bump, or obstacle
    • Riding on slippery surfaces
    • Attempting to do stunts
  • Mechanical and structural problems including:
    • Brake failure
    • The wheel or steering gets loose or comes apart
    • Problems shifting gears
    • The chain slips off
    • A pedal falls off
    • A spoke breaks
    • A flat tire
  • Feet, hands, or clothing get caught in the bicycle
  • A foot slips from the pedal
  • Problems getting out of clips or toe cages

Most of these accidents can be avoided with proper bike selection, use, and care. Consider the following bike safety tips:

Selecting the Bicycle

There are several things to consider when you buy a bicycle. If you have not bought one before, consider going to a professional bicycle shop. They can help you find a bicycle that is right for you. Here are some other tips:

  • If you are buying a bicycle for a child, choose one to fit the child's size today. Most bicycles can be adjusted as your child grows.
  • A bicycle should suit the rider's ability and kind of riding.
  • Check hand and foot brakes for fast, easy stops.
  • Do not choose a bicycle with slippery plastic pedals. Instead, look for:
    • Rubber-treated pedals, or
    • Metal pedals with serrated rat-trap edges or firmly attached toe clips
  • Make sure the bike fits your body. Ask for professional help if you are not sure.

Using the Bicycle

Knowing how to use a bicycle is important too. Before jumping on your bicycle:

  • Always wear a helmet to help prevent head injuries.
  • Never use just your front (right) brake. Doing this may cause you to flip over the handle bars.
  • Obey all traffic laws and signals, just as if you were driving a car.
  • Do not try to do stunts.
  • Learn about the specific laws for bicyclists in your state. In the United States, bicycles are considered vehicles. They have the same rights and responsibilities as other drivers.
  • Try not to ride through busy intersections. Stay away from heavy or high-speed traffic. Especially, avoid roads with lots of truck traffic. Find other routes.
  • Do not ride in wet or icy weather. When wet, hand brakes may need a longer distance to stop.
  • Do not ride in the dark. If you do, be sure the bike has a headlight, a taillight, and reflectors. Apply reflective trim to clothing or wear a reflective vest or jacket. Flashing lights may help others see you better.
  • Do not wear clothing or long coats that can catch in pedals, gears, or wheels. Use leg clips or bands to keep pant legs from tangling in the chain.
  • Do not cross raised sewer grates.
  • Dress properly for the weather.
  • Do not eat large meals prior to biking. Have a high-calorie snack with you, especially when planning long rides.
  • Always have a bottle of water with you.
  • Carry a cell phone with you. You never know when you may need it.
  • Have some basic bicycle repair tools with you.
  • Do not use headphones or earbuds. You may not hear important sounds.

Maintaining the Bicycle

Stay safe by checking your bicycle on a regular basis. Read the owner's manual. It can help you know what to check, fix, or replace. Have an bicycle repair technician do complicated work. This is especially important if your bicycle has not been used for several weeks. Also:

  • Align wobbly wheels for better control. Spokes also may need adjustment.
  • Replace all missing, damaged, or worn parts. Examples include: brake pads, chain guards, chain links, spokes, screws, bolts, and handlebar grips.
  • Tighten and/or adjust loose parts.
  • Before each ride, check breaks, tires, frame, fork, spindles, and other parts. Make sure there are no cracks in them.
  • Adjust parts as advised by the manufacturer.
  • Inflate tires to recommended pressure. Replace worn tires.
  • Lightly oil and clean moving parts. Keep oil off rubber.
  • Keep your bicycle indoors when you are not using it. Moisture may cause rust and weaken metal parts.

RESOURCES:

League of American Bicyclists
http://www.bikeleague.org
Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
https://www.pedbikeinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canada's Safety Council
https://canadasafetycouncil.org
Canadian Automobile Association
https://www.caa.ca/

Reference:

Bicycle safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/bicycle/. Accessed June 17, 2021.
Kids and bicycle safety. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 17, 2021.
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/moderate-to-severe-traumatic-brain-injury. Accessed June 17, 2021.
State Bike Laws. The League of American Bicyclists. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 17, 2021.

Last Updated: 6/17/2021

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