Bicycle Safety Tips
Using a bicycle as your primary means of transportation can be fun, cost effective, and help keep you physically fit. However, bicycle riding poses many risks, even for the experienced rider.
Scraped knees and elbows are commonplace, but even a minor spill may result in serious head and brain injury. Statistics show that between 70-80% of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries. Although helmet usage is very low (15-18%), studies have proven that bicycle helmets are 85-88% effective in mitigating total head and brain injuries.
In addition to using helmets and knee pads, keep in mind the following safety tips:
- Check safety equipment before starting.
- Obey all traffic laws.
- Ride in single file.
- Ride as close to the right edge of the road as possible.
- Avoid riding at night.
- Keep both hands on the handlebars.
To ensure comfort, a properly fitted bicycle is a must. The following guidelines will aid you in achieving a good bicycle fit.
- Frame Size - There should be 2-3 inches of clearance between the rider's crotch and the top-tube while straddling the bicycle.
- Saddle Height - The single most important aspect of body positioning is saddle height. It influences how effectively power is delivered from your legs to the pedals. Proper saddle height reduces knee strain and thereby reduces the likelihood of knee fatigue or injury.
Adjust the saddle so that when seated, your heels rest solidly on the pedals. Pedal backwards. If your pelvis rocks from side to side in order to keep your heels on the pedals at the bottom of the stroke, the saddle is too high. Lower the seat until your heels remain on the pedals while pedaling backwards. When saddle height is properly adjusted, rocking from side to side will no longer occur.
Legs should not be fully straight while cycling. A proper riding position requires legs to be approximately 95% extended at the bottom of the stroke, with the balls of the feet squarely placed on the pedals.
- Saddle Tilt - The saddle should comfortably support most of your body weight. Body weight should be centered on the saddle, with your arms flexed and relaxed.
Seat post and handlebar stems are inscribed by the manufacturer with marks establishing the maximum adjustment (max. adj.) height. Never raise a seat post or handlebar stem higher than these marks. There must be sufficient post or stem inside the frame to support the stress and weight. Insufficient stem or post inside the frame may cause the top part of the tube to break off.
Seventy-five percent of bicycling fatalities are due to head injuries incurred as a result of cyclists falling and striking their heads. Wearing a bicycle helmet with the chin strap secured is mandatory when operating a bicycle. To be effective, the helmet must fit properly and sit level on your head.
When purchasing bicycle helmets for you and your family, look for helmets that meet or exceed the standards set by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation.
Use of shatter-resistant protective eye wear and half-finger bicycling gloves is also recommended. Gloves reduce hand fatigue caused by continually gripping the handlebars and also offer some protection for your palms in case of a fall.
To ensure overall safety, this A-B-C QUICK CHECK procedure should be performed before you ride your bicycle.
- Air - Check tire pressure and inflate to recommended maximum pressure. Look for damage and tread wear.
- Brakes - Examine brake pads, cables and housings. Ensure that all brake pads open and close together and operate smoothly.
- Crank - Check for bearing play in crank and headset.
- Quick Release - Many bicycles are equipped with quick-release axles rather than the traditional thread and nut type of wheel axle. Make sure any quick-release devices are tightened and tires secured to the frame.
- Component Check - Check bicycle components and ensure all are functioning properly by taking a slow ride in an area free of traffic, such as a parking lot. Bicycles should also be lightly bounced on the ground while you listen for anything that may be loose.
A bicycle is recognized legally as a vehicle and must be driven in a manner consistent with any other vehicle on the road. Although a bicycle is very maneuverable, this does not mean a cyclist can violate traffic laws with impunity. Always follow the rules of the road, and obey all traffic laws.
Bicycles are relatively quiet. Pedestrians and other traffic may not be aware of you. You must communicate your presence or intentions to pedestrians and other traffic when changing lanes, turning or passing. Cyclists should choose routes that are convenient and safe; try not to ride in extremely heavy traffic.
A cyclist should always exercise due caution. The following are some basic cycling guidelines:
- Lane Position - Usually you should ride in the extreme right lane to your desired destination. Other acceptable lane positions are just to the right of the motorized traffic when the lane is wide enough to safely share the center of the lane, or slightly to the right of the center (the right-hand tire track).
- High Speed - If able to keep up with the flow of traffic, use the entire lane -- take the lane.
- Lane Changing - Plan ahead, look behind and signal your intentions. Act carefully, smoothly and deliberately. Never move in front of another vehicle so closely as to constitute a hazard.
- Turning Lane - When using a turning lane, maintain your position in the right-hand side of the lane throughout the turn. This technique will enable you to end up in the right lane on the street you are turning on to, without crossing in front of traffic that may be either behind or along side of you.
When either brake is applied, additional weight is transferred to the front wheel. The more weight a wheel supports, the more effective the applied braking force; therefore, the tendency to skid is lessened.
Applying excessive pressure to only the rear brake causes shifting of weight to the front of the bicycle and decreases the weight on the rear wheel. Since the rear wheel is now supporting less weight, it will have a tendency to skid, and thus decrease the ability of the bike to stop.
Applying excessive pressure to the front brake shifts weight to the front wheel, but in this case the weight transfer increases the effectiveness of the brake. However, it is dangerous to apply the front brake too hard, as the rear wheel may lift off the road and the rider may be pitched over the handlebars. Braking with the rear brake alone will avoid pitchover but is not very effective in stopping the bicycle.
The best system for a fast and safe stop is to use both brakes in a 3:1 front-to-rear ratio. If the rear wheel starts to skid, this indicates that your weight is unevenly distributed, and you should ease up slightly on the front brake. When braking hard, slide your body to the rear as far as possible.
Hazards that commonly affect cyclists fall into three categories: surface, visual and moving.
- Surface hazards commonly include holes and cracks in the pavement, road edge deterioration or drop off, curb and gutter joints, expansion joints, differences in pavement height or grade, loose sand, debris or glass, skewed railroad tracks, drainage/manhole covers, and standing water.
- Visual hazards include environmental conditions (sun glare, darkness, fog, smoke, etc.), obstructed view by parked or moving vehicles, fences and landscaping, buildings, and pedestrians.
- Moving hazards include motor vehicles, other approaching cyclists (in either direction), opening car doors, vehicles pulling out from parking spaces, pedestrians, and animals.
When going over small obstacles (such as curbs), the obstacle should be approached from a perpendicular angle, the front wheel straight and the pedals parallel to the ground. The rider should assume a crouched position and stand on the pedal rather than remain seated to enable the legs to act as shock absorbers.