Have you noticed the increase in the number of people out cycling?  I sure have.  Bike shops across the country are selling bicycles at a record pace to keep up with the increased demands.  I think it is directly related to this global pandemic- as more and more people are stuck at home looking for ways to get out of the house and reduce stress. What better way than to go outside and ride a bike!

I am happy to see more and more people out cycling, yet it surprises me how many of these new cyclists are not wearing a helmet.  This got me thinking I should write a blog on bike safety as there are so many more people out on the roads, and many of them for the first time in many years.

Cycling is my favorite form of exercise and it does provide a feeling of escape from every day stresses, which we all have especially lately with this pandemic looming over us.  While cycling can be lots of fun, even exhilarating it can also be very dangerous. 

Is it possible to ride your bike in complete and utter safety? It is, if you stay indoors and ride a Peloton or ride your own bike on a trainer that is secure. Otherwise, you’re taking a risk any time you head out the door. Your job is to mitigate that risk as much as possible.

Any amount of riding puts you in danger of falling. You could have trouble unclipping, hit a random bump or slide on wet roads or sand. If you fall from five or six feet in the air without your feet under you, you can land on your head. Your injury could range from a bruised ego to severe brain damage.

Obviously, step one is to wear a good helmet. Your helmet can save your life. I am amazed to still see people riding a bike without a helmet. Even if you’re just pedaling down the street, wear your helmet. The helmet needs to be securely fastened. If it’s too loose and slips out of place at a critical moment, your head is in danger. If your head is in danger, your life is in danger.

What else can you do to lower your risk?

If you are riding on the roads make yourself more visible.  Use lights on both the front and back of your bicycle.  Wear brightly colored clothing. 

Beware of distracted drivers- and ride defensively. Maintain situational awareness. If you hear a car approaching from behind, stay balanced. They may come close, but hold your line, and do not veer into their path or veer off the road either (unless you know they’re aiming at you).

Prepare for every driver to make the worst possible decision for you. If they pass you, prepare for them to immediately slow down and turn right (in front of you). If they stay behind you, prepare for them to come perilously close when they finally do pass. Get ready for when a truck or even a large car goes closely by you for a big gust of wind to hit you just after they pass you. 

Imagine that virtually no approaching or cross-traffic drivers see you and expect them to fail to yield. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the right. What matters is not getting hit by a 3,000-pound vehicle.

Avoid road cycling at dawn, dusk and nighttime. Visibility is poor at these hours and your chances for distracted or impaired drivers increase in the latter two. If you do ride at these times for commuter or scheduling reasons, find the least traveled roads you can. And turn on your lights!

Avoid rush hour cycling. People are often in a hurry and get easily angered.

Maintain your bike. If the chain pops off on a steep climb, you may tip over. If you blow out the sidewall of an old tire on a steep descent, you have a high chance of crashing. Make sure your brakes work well.

Don’t wear headphones while riding. I don’t care if it is motivational music or if it is a great podcast… wearing headphones is dangerous as you cannot hear cars approaching from the rear and you lose situational awareness. 

Be careful riding on bike paths- while there are not any cars- you still need to be aware of other cyclists, skateboarders, runners, roller-bladers, and people walking their dogs… all together on narrow paths.

Mountain biking is another way to get away from cars, just be sure to ride within your current bike handling skills.

So, if you are new to cycling or just getting back on a bike after many years please follow these bike safety tips and get out there and enjoy yourselves!

If you have any questions about this blog or about your health in general feel free to contact me at: drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com