Many biking accidents could be prevented if riders protected themselves with the right equipment and maintained their bikes with safety in mind.
The following checklist from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can help you avoid accidents and have more fun when you ride.
Check your bike
Check your bicycle manual for safety and maintenance instructions specific to your bike.
You also should:
Make sure your bike is the right size for you. When you're on it, stand straddling the top bar so both feet are flat on the ground. There should be one to two inches between you and the top bar.
Adjust the seat so your knee is slightly bent when you sit on the seat with your foot on the bike pedal at its lowest position.
Tighten the seat, handlebars and wheels, and make sure the wheels are straight.
Check and oil your chain regularly.
Always check your brakes before riding to make sure they're working properly and don't stick.
Check your tires to make sure they have the right pressure.
Attach a basket to your handlebars or a rack over your rear tire if you need to carry anything. Don't hold anything in your hands.
Put reflectors on your bike. You should put a red reflector, three inches wide, behind your seat. There also should be a white reflector in front of the handlebars and other reflectors in the spokes of both wheels.
Use your head
Because many bike accidents result in a head injury, you should always wear a helmet.
Look on your helmet for a sticker that indicates it meets safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or Snell. If it doesn't have this sticker, you should replace it with one that does. A CPSC sticker means the helmet meets tough government standards. A Snell sticker means the helmet has been approved by the Snell Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization that tests helmet safety and sets, maintains and updates stringent standards.
Make sure your helmet fits correctly. Ask a qualified bike store employee to help you adjust it properly.
A helmet should:
Sit level on your head, not be tilted forward or back
Have strong, wide straps that fasten snugly under the chin
Be tight enough with straps fastened so no sudden pulling or twisting can move the helmet around on your head
Always fasten your helmet straps when riding. In addition, be sure to follow rules of the road and obey all traffic signals. For example, don’t run stop signs and ride single file when in bike lanes.
- Larson, Kim APRN, FNP
- newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician