While bicycling is regarded by most as a relatively safe activity, bicyclists are at a higher risk of accidents than in previous years. There are a few reasons for this uptick in accidents, and poor bike safety is certainly a contributing factor.
Whether you’re an avid cyclist or someone who rides casually once or twice a year, here are seven important tips that will keep you safe on the roads.
1. Maintain Your Bike
It’s wise to maintain your bike between sessions, but at the very least, you should be performing a routine check and cleaning several times per year:
- Clean your bike. Naturally, it’s going to collect plenty of dirt, grass, and water. Don’t let it build up!
- Keep tires inflated. Check the pressure of each tire to make sure it’s properly inflated to the recommended PSI.
- Lubricate. Make sure any areas where metal moves on metal are well lubricated.
- Get a professional service. Make sure your bike is in tip-top shape by having a professional take a look at least once a year.
2. Perform a Pre-Ride Safety Check
Yes, you should be making sure your bike receives routine maintenance, but it’s also wise to perform a check right before you take it out riding.
Plenty can change between the time you perform maintenance and the time you take your bicycle out to ride. Tire pressure, for example, changes frequently – particularly when there are rapid temperature changes.
Here are the items your pre-ride safety check should cover:
- Check your tires. First, rotate your tires to make sure there are no cuts, tears, or worn tread. Then, make sure each of your tires is inflated to the recommended PSI (which is usually displayed on the bike).
- Check your brakes. If there is any movement in either of your wheels when grasping the brake levers, your bicycle is not safe to ride.
- Check your wheels and pedals. Lay your bike down on the ground. Place your hand on the front of the tire and try to rock the wheel left and right (towards the ground and then towards your body). Repeat the process for your pedals. If any one of the wheels or pedals is wobbly, don’t ride your bike.
- Check your chain. Make sure the chain is clean and lubricated. If there are any signs of rust, including unusual sounds, you should have your chain checked or replaced before riding.
3. Always Wear a Helmet
It should go without saying, yet you see riders who regularly leave their helmets at home. Make sure you have a helmet that fits and is comfortable to wear while riding.
According to a study from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of a head injury by 85%.
4. Do Not Wear Headphones While Riding
While it may be tempting to add a soundtrack to your scenic ride, don’t wear headphones when riding your bicycle.
Not only do headphones prevent you from hearing all of the traffic around you, but they also have the potential to distract you from staying focused on the road and surrounding vehicles.
5. Wear Reflective and Fluorescent Materials
Particularly if you’re riding home while the sun is setting (or after it has already set), wearing bright, jarring colors will keep you as visible as possible.
It’s been reported that 35% of all fatal cycling crashes occur at night, when only 10% of cyclists ride after dark.
6. Always Ride Single-File
If you like to ride your bicycle along with other riders, make sure all parties know to ride single-file at all times.
Although doing this may make it difficult to communicate with one another, it gives vehicles plenty of room to operate and keep clear of riders.
7. Ride on the Right Side of the Road
Did you know that you can get a ticket for riding against the flow of traffic?
While the law is enforced more heavily in congested areas, it’s illegal to ride your bike on the left side of the road in most states. The one exception is if there’s a sidewalk, which is designed to protect riders against cars.
There are a few reasons why cyclists should stick to the right side, riding with the flow of traffic:
- Cars often can’t see you when making turns.
- Once cars do see you, they have even less time to slow down, as you’re traveling towards them.
- At night, car lights can be blinding to oncoming riders.
8. Use Proper Hand Signals
People often treat hand signals as if they’re part of a new language entirely, but all of the cycling hand signals can be learned within minutes. They’re not difficult!
Download this convenient chart from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and get those signals down!