Do you remember learning to ride a bike as a kid? It was so exciting, and yet scary at the same time—learning how to balance our weight on two wheels and not go toppling over. In many ways, learning how to ride a bike is like a rite of passage, a transition between one phase of life to the next.
It created a new level of independence for most of us. Once we learned to ride, it was as though the world opened up. Suddenly, we were allowed to ride down the block to a friend’s house, ride to school, or ride to the grocery store all by ourselves. It created a great sense of freedom, and for many bike enthusiasts, that feeling has never gone away.
But did you know that biking becomes more difficult as we merge into adulthood, and in many cases, it can be deadly? It’s true, and sadly the statistics are rising every year.
Kids typically ride in the safety of their driveway or sidewalk. Adults don’t have that built-in safety net. Even in a bike-friendly state like Wisconsin, where more and more cities and villages are creating bike lanes and riding paths, a bicyclist is injured or killed every 8.3 hours. That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves about bike safety, over, and over, and over again.
Of course, there are many great reasons to ride a bike. It’s great for our cardiovascular health and fitness. It’s a proven stress reliever and good for our state of mind. It cuts down on the level of emissions in our environment. It’s convenient. It saves money. And it’s just plain fun.
However, it’s important to remember these 10 Smart Rules to Bike Safety if you plan on riding:
- Protect your head; wear a helmet. (You know this.)
- Stay visible. If a driver can see you, they are less likely to hit you.
- Look, signal & look again. Use hand signals to let drivers and other cyclists know where you’re going.
- Stay alert. Keep a lookout for any obstacles in your path, such as potholes, stones, and uneven or loose manhole covers as these can all be a detriment to riders.
- Go with the flow. Always bike in the direction of traffic.
- Act like a car. Don’t try and squeeze between vehicles, zig when you should zag, or zag when you should zig. It is literally an accident waiting to happen.
- Don’t get distracted. It’s not wise to listen to music if it impairs your hearing of horns, or cars coming up behind you. And it is never a good idea to use cell phones while biking—ever.
- Obey all traffic laws and lights. This seems obvious because if you’re using the same streets you should be using the same rules of the road, but many times we overlook the obvious. Don’t.
- Assure bicycle readiness. Is your bicycle properly adjusted for your body? Even your seat being too high or too low can cause problems on the road.
- Do a quick maintenance check when you are getting ready to ride. Are your brakes working, and are your tires properly inflated? A simple check can make a huge difference.
Let’s ride smart. Keeping these simple things in mind and making them a part of our riding practices may not only keep us safe, it may keep us alive.