“I keep thinking of the journey he will go on,” my dad said as my son unwrapped the bicycle. As an avid cyclist himself, nicknamed Super Dave, this gift was as functional as it was sentimental. With each mile, my son will learn the parallel lessons of what it takes to become successful and stay safe on the bicycle and in life.
Here are the top five ways for you and your family to stay safe on a bicycle.
Protect Your Head
If the unfortunate occurs and you find yourself more horizontal than vertical, wearing a helmet can be your saving grace. Helmets are the most important piece of equipment because they can help prevent serious head injuries. A helmet should be worn each ride, every time. Keep your head safe to protect your life.
To make sure the helmet is properly-fitted, follow this checklist:
- Helmet should sit level on your head and snug enough that it will not move more than one inch in either direction (forward, back, or side to side).
- Side straps should form a “V” below and slightly forward of your ears.
- The chin strap buckle should be centered under your chin. There should not be able to fit more than one to two fingers between your chin and the strap.
>> RELATED READ :: How to Get Your Kids to Wear a Bike Helmet <<
What You Wear Matters
There’s a reason why cycling apparel and some bicycles are so colorful. Highly visible clothing brings attention. When you’re sharing the road with cars, the more attention you can draw to yourself, the better chances are that you’ll be seen. Wearing bright colors on your legs is more visible than wearing colorful tops. The reason: On a bicycle, your legs are constantly in motion whereas your top is relatively stable. The human eye more easily recognizes motion, so it will notice your fluorescent legs peddling. Keep yourself safe and make your presence known.
Light It Up All Day and Night
Yes, this article is about bicycle safety, but I’m going to use a car metaphor: Most newer cars have an automatic setting for daytime driving lights. All cars have rear blinking lights to signal our indication of turning. These lights — static and active — play a role in communicating to others our presence. The same rules apply to riding a bicycle.
No matter the hour, it’s imperative to have a front light and a flashing taillight. Again, people more quickly see flashing lights over solid lights, which makes you more visible and increases your safety. Keep yourself safe, and light up your path.
Strength in Numbers
Anytime you are on the road, whether in a car or on a bike, you’re putting yourself at risk. Just as birds fly in a flock to appear larger against predators, riding in a group will have more visibility than a single cyclist.
Should a situation arise, you’ll have more resources to help when you’re in a group. A flat tire? An accident? A medical emergency? Riding with friends will not only be more fun, but it will also be safer.
If you’re more of a lone wolf, at least tell a loved one where you plan on riding. Even better, download an app, like Strava, that will track your ride and share with others in real time. Keep yourself safe and surround yourself with community.
Traveling by Wheels, You’re Right
Another important part of bicycle safety is understanding and following traffic laws. Anything that travels by wheels should keep to the right of the street in the United States, specifically. As a cyclist, you always want to be conscious of how you are communicating with others on the road. Follow these common traffic courtesies:
- Stay on the right side of the road.
- Use hand motions to indicate if you need to turn.
- Always stop slightly behind a car so they can see you in their side mirrors.
- If traveling with a group, point and call out any imperfections on the road. This includes debris, bumps, potholes or roadkill.
Keep yourself safe and be understanding of the journey others are traveling.
>> RELATED READ :: Take It Outside :: Toys that Encourage Outdoor Play <<
Bicycle safety is more than just lessons for a ride in the saddle. Life is a journey. Whether it’s the miles or the years that are going by, you are responsible for your ride. Keep your mind safe, make yourself known, light up your path, find your community, and be empathetic to others. Where you go in life is determined by your actions. Your actions are determined by your understanding. Know how to keep yourself safe and watch your journey unfold.
Be kind. Be safe. Be you.