As summer months approach, you may be getting ready to pedal around on your bike to enjoy the weather and also to get some exercise, among a number of other benefits. Perhaps you’ve heard “always wear a helmet” enough times that it’s easy to dismiss the reminder, but the advice can make a difference between life and death.
“Properly fitted bicycle helmets are the single most important safety device for cyclists of all ages and are estimated to reduce head injury risk by as much as 85 percent,” said John Dunn, MD, a Kaiser Permanente pediatrician in Washington. “Make it a rule that no one in your family cycles without a helmet, no matter how short the ride.”
Need a helmet-fitting refresher course? Matthew Handley, MD, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center in Seattle, provides us with a one-minute demo.
In addition to owning and wearing a properly fitted bicycle helmet, there are a number of other bike safety tips to heed:
- Choose the right bike: Children should be able to sit on the bicycle seat, hands on the handlebars, and have the balls of their feet touch the ground. Don’t select a bike for your child to “grow into.” Foot-operated brakes, rather than hand brakes, are safest for younger children.
- Always wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet: The helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position and not rock forward, backward, or side to side. The helmet straps should form a V under the ears, and should be snug but comfortable.
- Check the bike’s mechanics often: Are the brakes working properly, the gears shifting smoothly, and the tires tightly secured and properly inflated?
- Wear neon, fluorescent or other bright colors: It’s important to wear a bright shirt, jacket or vest, even during daylight hours. Front white lights, rear red lights and other light reflectors should be placed on the bicycle and worn by the cyclist.
- Never ride at dusk or after dark: Night riding requires skills that most children haven’t acquired.
- Don’t wear headphones or listen to tunes while riding: Cyclists need to be able to hear oncoming traffic and be fully focused on hazards.
- Follow the rules of the road: Ride on the right side of roads, in the same direction as other vehicles. (Almost one-fourth of bicycle-car collisions result from bicyclists riding against traffic.) Obey all traffic signs, signals and lane markings. Use hand signals when turning.
- Beware of drivers in parked cars: They may open their doors or pull out unexpectedly.
- Don’t wear long or loose clothing: It can get caught in bike chains or wheel spokes.
- Make eye contact with drivers: Be sure that they’re paying attention before crossing in front of them or pulling into their lane. Just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean he or she can see you.
Share this information with fellow bike riders and spend some time preparing to take your bike out. Then go — hop on your bike, with a helmet properly fitted on your head, ride on and soak up the sun with friends and family.