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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Follow the Bicycle Safety Cycle

Bicycle Safety Tips
In 1817, Baron von Drais invented a walking machine that would help him get around the royal gardens faster: two same-size in-line wheels, the front one steerable, mounted in a frame which you straddled. The device was propelled by pushing your feet against the ground, thus rolling yourself and the device forward in a sort of gliding walk. The machine became known as the Draisienne or hobby horse. Von Drais' invention was the embryonic phase of what came to be known as the bicycle through its many variations.

The bicycle has played a prominent part in our childhood, youth, and even adulthood. It was through learning how to ride a bicycle that many of us first felt an exhilarating feeling of operating a moving mode of transportation. It propelled us to make friends, get good exercise, and appreciate the outdoors. In communities across the world, there is a growing need and responsibility to provide options that give people the opportunity to bike more often, and to bike to more places. The benefits of riding a bicycle - whether for utilitarian or recreational purposes—can be expressed in terms of improved environmental and personal health, reduced traffic congestion, enhanced quality of life, economic rewards, as well as others.

Nevertheless, there are risks involved when bicyclists do not follow bicycle safety tips and break traffic laws. In 2008, 716 bicyclists were killed and an additional 52,000 were injured in traffic crashes. Bicyclist deaths accounted for two percent of all traffic fatalities, and bicyclists made up two percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes during the year. Even though many of those were caused by motor vehicle driver error, a bicyclist must always be in tune to the defensive side of riding a bike. It's not always as easy as it seems, and maybe its not like "riding a bike" or maybe it is if you get in the habit of riding safely.

The following are some bicycle safety tips from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) that should be followed in going through and continuing the cycle of bicycle safety.

Protect Your Head; Wear a Helmet - Never ride a bicycle without wearing a properly fitted helmet. Helmets are proven to be 85-88 percent effective in preventing traumatic brain injury, the primary cause of death and disabling injuries resulting from cycling crashes.

Assure Bicycle Readiness, Ensure Proper Size and Function of Bicycle - Use a bicycle that fits you, and check all parts of the bicycle to make sure they are secure and working well.

Ride Wisely, Learn and Follow the Rules of the Road - Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators on the road and must follow traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles. Always ride with traffic and obey traffic lights, signs, speed limits, and lane markings. Know your traffic laws found in the state drivers’ licensing handbook. Signal in advance of a turn, use correct hand signals so others can anticipate your actions. Yield to pedestrians and other vehicles, as appropriate. If you choose to ride on a sidewalk, take extra caution at driveways and other intersections. Check for traffic by looking left-right-left before entering a street. Control your speed by using your brakes. If your bicycle has hand brakes, apply the rear brakes slightly before the front brakes.

Be Predictable, Act like a Driver of a Vehicle - Always ride with the flow of traffic, on the right side of the road, and as far to the right of the road as is practical and safe. Motorists do not expect to see traffic coming in the opposite direction or on the sidewalk. When motorists don’t expect to see you, they may pull across your path or turn into you, causing a crash. Ride straight and do not swerve in a lane or in and out of traffic.

Be Visible: See and Be Seen at All Times- Always assume you are not seen by others. To enhance your visibility at night or in low-visibility conditions: wear neon & fluorescent colors, wear special clothing from reflective materials, and install bicycle reflectors on both the front & back of your bicycle. Remember that young children should be discouraged from riding at night.

"Drive" with Care, Share the Road - Choose to ride in the bike lane, if available. If the roadway or bike lane is wide, ride to the right; if the lane is narrow, you may choose to ride in the middle of the lane just like a motorized vehicle. Take extra precautions when riding on a roadway: make eye contact, smile, or wave to communicate with motorists; be considerate and aware of motorists and pedestrians, learn to anticipate their actions, and remember that pedestrians do have the right of way; ride far enough from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars; keep control of your bicycle, look behind you while maintaining your bicycle in a straight path; always look over your shoulder, and if possible, signal before changing lanes; use bells, horns, or your voice to alert pedestrians and bicyclists that you are approaching or passing.

Stay Focused, Stay Alert - Never wear headphones or use an I-Pod while riding, they hinder your ability to hear traffic. Always look for obstacles in your path (potholes, cracks, railroad tracks, or anything that could make you fall). Be aware of the traffic around you, ride defensively. Use extra care when riding in wet weather, slow your speed and allow extra time to stop. Use caution when crossing a railroad track; cross tracks at a 90-degrees angle and proceed slowly.

By constantly following & applying the magnificent seven bicycle safety messages on the "cycle of bicycle safety", you can play an imperative role in reducing fatalities & injuries to bicyclists and be breaking away from danger.

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