Bicycle safety begins before you even start your ride. With bike riding being fun and popular with all ages, it is easy to forget that it is actually exercise. Before you set off on your bicycle, remember to check your tire pressure and make sure they are at the proper inflation pressure.
If you have kids, teach them how to be safe on their bicycles from the very beginning. Start with giving them the proper size bike, that means buying them a bike that they will be able to ride now and not grow into. A bike that is too big can significantly increase a crash as it is harder for the child to handle.
To properly fit the bike, have your child straddle the bike with their feet flat on the ground and lift the bike even with the pelvic bone. If the bike is off the floor 1 to 2 inches, the bike is the right size for your child. When your child sits on the seat, the ball of their foot should be able to touch the ground and when your foot is on the pedal, your leg should bend slightly. With a slight lean forward, you should be able to reach the handlebars. You can adjust the seat and handlebars according to your child’s needs and comfort level. It is also important for the child to be able to squeeze the handbrake easily if their bike has them.
Before you ride your bike, it should have a pre-ride check done to ensure its safe. Making sure the tires are properly inflated by pushing on them with your thumb and determining if they are too soft or not is important.
Also check check for loose or sharp objects. Be sure to check for loose bearings at the headset of the bicycle.
Make sure your brakes work as they are the best defense on a bike. Give the bike a short test ride to ensure they work correctly. If you think something is wrong but unsure, take your bicycle to your local bike repair shop to have them check it over.
The proper fit for a helmet is important because 50% of bicycle crashes are falls. 17% involve cars with another 17% involving other bicycles. In Pennsylvania, ALL children under the age of 12 HAVE to wear a helmet and should be worn by everyone as a properly fitted helmet will absorb the impact of a crash. It won’t make you invincible, but will lessen the chances of scrapes and skull fractures. Remember to always choose a helmet by the CPSC. A helmet should fit securely on the forehead with two fingers from the brim to the eyebrow of your child. The buckle should be under the chin of the child and you should be able to fit one finger under the strap. Be sure to adjust the side straps to form a “V” around the ear and the helmet should not walk back and forth on the head. It is important to remember that a bicycle helmet is not as durable as a football helmet! They are only good for one crash and then must be replaced.
Lock your bike when you end your ride, this prevents theft and you can do this with any combination lock. Never leave your bike where it will block people or cars. Instead, lock it in a bike rack or an out of the way bench or post.
Riding your bike is a great way to stay fit, enjoy the outdoors, and protect our environment we live in. Walking or biking to school or around town is a great alternative with childhood obesity and diabetes at record highs. When you are out, remember to ride safe and with others.