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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Keep These Basic Safety Tips When You Ride

Bicycle riding is fun and healthy. But remember, a bicycle is a vehicle, not a toy. When you ride, be sure to:
  • Make sure your bicycle is ready to ride.
  • Before riding, always inspect your bike to be sure all parts are secure and working properly.
  • Protect your brain and save your life.
Always wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet. For more information, consult the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publication "Easy Steps to Properly Fit a Bicycle Helmet."
  • Make sure your bicycle fits your body. If using a road bike, here should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the top tube (bar); if using a mountain bicycle, it should be 3 to 4 inches. Front to back, the seat should be level. Adjust the seat height to allow a slight bend at the knee when your leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be aligned with your seat.
  • Check your tires and brakes. Inflate tires properly and check that your brakes work before riding.
  • See and be seen. You need to be seen by others, whether you’re riding daytime, dawn, dusk, foul weather, or at night. It has not been shown that wearing white does not make you more visible. Instead, always wear neon, fluorescent, or other bright colors when riding, and add something that reflects light, such as reflective tape or markings, or flashing lights. It is wise to remember that just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean the driver can see you.
  • Control your bicycle. Never ride without at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. Books and other things should be carried in a bicycle carrier or backpack.
  • Watch out for and avoid road hazards. Potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, and dogs are just some hazards that can cause a crash. Yell out and point to the hazard to the cyclists behind you if you are riding with someone.
  • Do not ride at night. It is far more risky to ride at night because it is harder for others to see you. If you must ride at night, wear something that makes you more easily seen by others. Be sure you have reflectors on the front and rear of your bicycle (many states require white lights on the front and red rear reflectors), in addition to reflectors on your tires, so others can see you.
Rules of Bicycling on the Road

Many bicycle-related crashes resulting in injury or death are the result of the bicyclist’s behavior, including such things as not wearing a bicycle helmet, cycling into a street without stopping, making a left or swerving into traffic that is coming from behind, blowing past a stop sign, and cycling the wrong way in traffic. To be the safest you can be, always wear a helmet AND follow the rules of the road.

In many states, bicycles are considered vehicles, and cyclists have the same responsibilities to follow the rules of the road as motorists. When cycling, always:
  • Ride with the traffic flow. Bike on the right in the same direction as other vehicles. Ride with the flow - not against it.
  • Follow all traffic laws. You’re the driver, and bicycle is a vehicle. When biking in the street, obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings.
  • Yield to traffic when you should. Drivers on a smaller road almost always must wait for traffic on a major or larger road. If there is no stop sign or traffic signal and you are coming from out of a driveway, from a sidewalk, or a bike path, for example, you must slow down and look to see if the way is clear before proceeding. You must also yield to pedestrians who have already entered a crosswalk.
  • Don't be surprising. Stay straight, not in and out of cars. Signal your turns to others.
  • At all times, stay alert. Use not only your eyes but your ears too. Be on the lookout for potholes, cracks, wet leaves, storm grates, railroad tracks, or anything that could make you lose control of your bike. To avoid dangerous situations, you need your ears to hear traffic; don't wear a headset when you ride.
  • Look before turning. Always look behind you for a break in traffic before you turn, then signal before making the turn. Look out for left- or right-turning traffic.
  • Look for parked cars. Ride far enough out from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars (opening doors, or cars pulling out, for example).
Street versus Sidewalk Riding

The street is the safest place for bicycle riding, where bicycles are expected to follow the same rules of the road as motorists and ride in the same direction.
  • Children less than 10 years old are not mature enough to make the decisions necessary to safely ride in the street. Kids are better off riding on the sidewalk.
If you must ride on a sidewalk:
  • Check the law in your state or jurisdiction to make sure riding on the sidewalk is allowed.
  • Look out for vehicles coming out of or turning into driveways.
  • Halt at corners of sidewalks and streets to look both ways for cars and to make sure the drivers see you before crossing.
  • Enter a street at a corner as opposed to entering between parked cars. Alert pedestrians that you are closing upon them by saying, "Excuse me," or, "Passing on your left," or use a bell or horn.
Schools, parents and communities can learn more about driver education and safety at America's Driver License Headquarters Try a Free DMV Practice Test online!

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