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Guide to Bicycle Safety

Preparing to Ride

There are lots of things you have to do before you actually get on a bike. The most obvious is making sure that you actually have the perfect bike for yourself. Your feet should be able to lay flat on the ground when you’re sitting on the seat. You should also pick where you’re going to ride carefully. Tackling large hills or going “off-roading” requires a special kind of bike so it’s best to be prepared. Wear appropriate safety articles. Only ride in appropriate weather. Rain or snow not only makes it harder to ride, it makes it harder for cars to see you as well. Always bring a full water bottle with you to avoid dehydration no matter the weather.

Rules of the Road

Once you’re actually riding, there are rules of the road you should follow as well. It’s very important to pay attention to traffic signs around you because they tell you what the cars riding alongside you will be doing. This way, you will know if they’re stopping or turning. Remember to only pass to the right of cars that are stopped at a light. This keeps drivers from being startled by you and it stops you from cutting off people’s turns. Wear appropriate safety items such as helmets, gloves and even kneepads, whenever possible. It’s also good to remember that while you, as a rider, have the right of way in most cases, it’s often better to let cars have their way because they are far less likely to be able to stop abruptly if something happens.

It’s also important that you make sure your intentions are clear. Not only should you be wearing very bright clothing or even fluorescent vests, but you should also have some sort of light attached to your bike. When you are getting ready to make a turn, you should be holding your arm out either to the left or right to let everyone know. Also, try to stay off sidewalks as much as possible and if you do end up on a sidewalk where people walk, ride at walking speed.

Laws for Biking

There are even laws that apply to bicycle riders. Riders are allowed on any public road or street as well as sidewalks outside business districts. You can pass cars on the right and use hand signals to signal turns or stops. It’s important to obey all traffic laws, give pedestrians the right of way, and give them an audible signal before you pass them. You must keep one hand on your handlebars at all times and you must have a permanent seat attached to the bike. If your pedals don’t have reflectors, you must wear one on each ankle. If you're under the age of 18 you must also wear a helmet at all times. While riding a bike it is illegal to “hitch a ride” on a vehicle by holding on to the vehicle and having the vehicle pull the bike and it's rider. It's also illegal for a bike rider to wear ear plugs or ear phones in both ears. One ear must be free of obstruction at all times, except for riders using hearing aids.

If you carry any passengers, they must be in a regular seat that is permanently attached to the bike or towed behind it. No child is allowed on the physical bike until they are at least 1 year old. A child aged 1-4 must ride in an upright seat attached to the bike or a trailer behind the bike. Their hands and feet must be out of reach of the spokes. If you are carrying something, it must be in a basket, rack, bag, or trailer.

Bike Maintenance

Bike maintenance is important for safety too. Maintenance can go a long way in preventing expensive repairs as well as injury. Check your tires regularly for air pressure as well as any possible holes. When checking your tires it is also important to check the nuts used to hold the wheels in place. Make sure they are secure so you don't lose a tire mid-ride. Also check the spokes of the tires because broken spokes not only affect the bike, they can cause injury as well. Check that your breaks are working properly and capable of stopping the bike. Brake cables sometimes become stretched and worn, losing pressure needed to stop the bike. To test this apply your brakes; the brake handles shouldn’t touch the handlebars when squeezed. Also check your brake pads. Make sure they aren't excessively worn down and are only touching the metal of the rim. If the brake pad touches the tire it could cause damage to the tire and ultimately lead to injury. Make sure that your handlebars and seat are at the right heights. Make sure your helmet is always in good condition. Look it over to make sure it has no cracks on the inside or outside and that the straps are in good shape. A helmet should rest on your forehead above your eyebrows protecting more of your head in case of a fall. Always make sure to keep your chain well lubricated. Any buildup can cause damage to the chain or cause the chain to slip, leading to possible injury.

Additional Bike Safety Resources

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