Make bike riding safety a top priority
Riding a bike has many terrific benefits. It is an excellent form of exercise; it is a low impact, joint-friendly workout; it is good for the environment; and, if used as a supplementary form of transportation, bicycling can save money.
Biking is also fun and can be enjoyed as a family activity or by oneself. When it comes to bicycling, the Twin Cities is repeatedly recognized as one of the best places for riding in not just the U.S., but in the world! The Twin Cities is extremely “bike friendly” and has some of the very best bike lanes, paths and trials found anywhere.
Unfortunately, bikes share the road with other vehicles, and bicycling can have risks. Every year, there are over 1,000 deaths associated with bicycle-automobile accidents in the United States.
Here are some ideas to minimize risks and increase both safety and biking enjoyment:
Protect your head
The most common and severe bicycling injuries are head injuries. Although not all states require helmets, a helmet should always be worn when riding a bike. This holds true even for short trips.
It is also essential to make sure the helmet fits properly. The helmet should have the seal of either the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), or the Snell Memorial Foundation. Once your chin strap is fastened, the helmet should not move. Local bike shops are amazing at offering and fitting proper safety helmets for biking.
Be constantly aware of your environment
This includes people, cars, other bikes, motorcycles, and objects in the bicycling area. Always pay attention, even if you have the right of way.
Bicyclists should follow the same rules as cars and motorcycles. Ride with the flow of traffic. Obey traffic lights and traffic signs at all times. Children 10 and younger should not ride in traffic with motorized vehicles. In general, walking pedestrians have the right of way over bicyclists, and bicyclists have the right of way over cars. Do not ride on sidewalks.
Avoid riding into the sunset; it dramatically reduces vision. Avoid riding at night whenever possible. Always use designated bike lanes and paths when possible. Avoid riding in areas with significant road debris.
Stay in control of your bike, and never ride so fast that you are unable to stop safely if an unexpected situation should suddenly arise. Always use hand signals and be courteous when passing other bicyclists or when they want to pass you. Signal all changes including turns and stopping. Avoid biking in poor weather.
Always bring money and an ID with you during all bicycling trips.
Protect your body
Protecting your head is essential, but don’t forget about the rest of your body. Wear gloves to prevent blisters, riding pants to protect against chaffing and saddle sores, and long clothing to protect against potential scrape injuries during a fall or crash onto the ground. Wear eyeglasses to protect from bugs, dirt and sand, and UV light damage to eyes. Wear sunscreen to protect against UV skin damage.
If you have a child riding with you, have your bike shop make sure the child seat is appropriate and that there is a guard so the child’s clothing or feet can’t get caught in the spokes. Make sure that you have a professional evaluate the size of any bike that you purchase to ensure the fit is correct.
Use bright and colorful clothing and reflective clothing with flashing lights. Use a horn or bell. Let people around you know you are there. Reflectors should be positioned on the front, back, pedals and spokes of your bike. Being seen is the best way to prevent accidents with cars.
Maintain your bike for best safety
Make sure all reflectors and lights are installed optimally and are working. Make sure the bell or horn works and is loud enough to alert everyone of your presence. Make sure the bike has no loose or broken parts. Check tire inflation weekly and before all long trips. Have your bike shop do an annual tune-up, or have them teach you how to do your own yearly tune-up.
Summertime is a great time to bicycle. With over 80 million bicyclists in the United States, many are finding bicycling to be a fun and healthy endeavor. Use these tips to make bicycling as safe as it is fun.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He received his M.D. and Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and Genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Dr. Crutchfield was recognized by Minnesota Medicine as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations, and president of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians.