The holidays are here and one of the top, almost timeless, gifts for children is the bicycle. Even if you are just a kid at heart, bike riding is a wonderful and economical way to get around while also saving a lot on gas. However, it does come with some risks. If you are new to bike riding, or looking to just make a New Years Resolution to ride safer, here are the top five tips for preventing bicycle accidents.
Wear a helmet
When you buy a bicycle, you need to buy a helmet with it. In this day, there’s no reason to ride a bicycle, especially in traffic, without the protection given by a helmet. Scientific studies have supported this, pointing out how helmets decrease the severity of injuries in accidents (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000145751400061X). With everything we are now learning about the long-term effects of concussions, it makes perfect sense for the first line of defense to be a helmet.
Don’t be invisible!
Another essential when biking is being clearly visible to car drivers. Reflective clothing and bike lighting are good ways to accomplish this. You can use neon reflective clothing or use reflective striping on your clothes so you can be seen by headlights. There is even a type of reflective paint you can put on your clothes or bike. This paint is invisible normally, until it is hit by the reflection from a headlight. Then it lights up. Finally, get lights on your bike just like car brake lights and headlights to make you more visible (http://physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com/2015/04/bicycle-safety-how-does-volvos-new.html ).
Obey the rules of the road.
It should go without saying that if you are going to ride a bike, you need to obey the laws. Be sure to ride with traffic, not against it and make sure to stop at all stop signs and red lights. Keep right in the “slow lane” on multi-lane roads unless you are making a left turn. These are common sense and will keep you safe.
Protect your child when riding with them.
If you are taking your infant or toddler out for a bike ride, be sure to get the right equipment to protect him or her. The old-fashioned child seats attached on the back of the bicycle frame are just not that safe. Instead, consider investing in a bike trailer (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/bike-trailers/buying-guide.htm). These look like the sidecars you see attached to the side of a motorcycle. However, they are attached to the back of the bicycle and are pulled along. They’re often enclosed and provide more safety for your child if you should tip over the bike.
Another big issue is being a defensive driver. You don’t want to be aggressive and weave in and out of traffic. Be aware of all the traffic around you. It’s easier for you to see them than it is for them to see you. Finally, be aware of “bike rage.” There are many aggressive drivers who don’t want to share the roads with a bicyclist. If you find yourself being trailed by dozens of cars that can’t pass, be considerate and pull to the side to let them pass before resuming your ride. The last thing you want is to be some road raging driver’s hood ornament!