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Bicycle Safety

Bicycle Safety Overview

Bicycling is a common means of transportation as well as an increasingly popular source of recreation, exercise, and sport.

  • Along with increased use of bicycles comes the risk of significant injuries. Injuries attributable to bicycling range from common abrasions, cuts, and bruises to broken bones, internal injuries, head trauma, and even death.
  •  From a statistical standpoint, bicycle riding has a higher death rate per trip or per mile of travel than being a passenger in an automobile.
  • The most common cause of bicycle crashes is due to falls or collisions with stationary objects. Collisions involving motor vehicles account for most of all bicycle-related deaths and  some nonfatal injuries. The majority of these bicycle deaths are caused by head injuries.

Principles of Bicycle Safety

  • Bicycling training: The best preparation for safe bicycle riding is proper training.
    • Common resources include an experienced rider, parent, or community program.
    • Initial training often involves simple instruction from parents on balance and pedaling.
    • Proper supervision of younger riders is a prerequisite. It is recommended that younger children ride only in enclosed areas.
  • Bicycle safety equipment: Investment in safety equipment such as protective clothing and a helmet can prevent a significant number of injuries.
    • Helmets are extremely important. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85%, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
    • Reflective clothing for nighttime or low-visibility conditions
    • Bicycle reflectors on frame and wheels
    • Proper bicycle selection
    • Bicycle maintenance
  • Bicycling safety guidelines: Consideration of these tips can further reduce the risk of a bicycle accident.
    • Use a bicycle only in a way that is appropriate for the age of the rider.
    • Be aware of the need for experience and skill before bicycling on public roads.
    • Less experienced bicyclists should be educated about the rules of the road.
    • Be aware of the understanding among bicyclists and motorists about sharing the road.
    • Promote and ensure safe motorist and bicyclist practices (proper speed, yielding right-of-way, not driving or riding while under the influence of alcohol or drugs). In some states in the U.S. it is illegal to ride a bicycle under the influence of alcohol and may lead to a BUI (bicycling under the influence).
    • Teach increased awareness of surroundings. (Beware of opening car doors, sewer gratings, debris on roads, uneven surfaces, poorly lit areas.)
  • Obey traffic rules
    • Cyclists must follow the same rules as motorists. Use correct hand signals before turning.
    • Because we all share the same road, obeying the rules of the road allow for an enjoyable and safe ride for both bicyclists and motorists.
  • Ride in single file with traffic, not against it.
  • Avoid major roads and sidewalks.
  • Announce your presence ("On your left") on bike and walking trails as you come up behind and pass pedestrians and other riders.
  • Enforcement and legislation can increase bicycle safety.
    • Mandating use of protective devices (helmets, reflectors): Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have helmet laws requiring young bicyclists to wear helmets.
    • Bicycle-friendly community and community planning, for example, establishing bicycle lanes and bike trails or rails-to-trails programs.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/29/2014

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