Bicycle riding is fun, healthy, and a great way to be independent. But it is important to remember that a bicycle is not a toy; it’s a vehicle! Be cool – follow some basic safety tips when you ride.
For more information on bicycle safety, visit the Florida Bicycle Association or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Safe Riding Tips
- Wear a Properly Fitted Bicycle Helmet. Protect your brain, save your life. For more information see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publication “Easy Steps to Properly Fit a Bicycle Helmet.”
- Adjust Your Bicycle to Fit. Stand over your bicycle. There should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the top tube (bar) if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if a mountain bicycle. The seat should be level front to back. The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.
- Check Your Equipment. Before riding, inflate tires properly and check that your brakes work.
- See and Be Seen. Whether daytime, dawn, dusk, foul weather, or at night, you need to be seen by others. Wearing white has not been shown to make you more visible. Rather, always wear neon, fluorescent, or other bright colors when riding day or night. Also wear something that reflects light, such as reflective tape or markings, or flashing lights. Remember, just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean the driver can see you.
- Control Your Bicycle. Always ride with at least one hand on the handlebars. Carry books and other items in a bicycle carrier or backpack.
- Watch for and Avoid Road Hazards. Be on the lookout for hazards such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, and dogs. All these hazards can cause a crash. If you are riding with friends and you are in the lead, yell out and point to the hazard to alert the riders behind you.
- Avoid Riding at Night. It is far more dangerous to ride at night than during the day because you are harder for others to see. If you have to ride at night, wear something that makes you more easily seen by others. Make sure you have reflectors on the front and rear of your bicycle (white lights on the front and red rear reflectors are required by law in many States), in addition to reflectors on your tires, so others can see you.
Many bicycle-related crashes resulting in injury or death are associated with the bicyclist’s behavior, including such things as not wearing a bicycle helmet, riding into a street without stopping, turning left or swerving into traffic that is coming from behind, running a stop sign, and riding the wrong way in traffic. To maximize your safety, always wear a helmet AND follow the rules of the road.
Rules of the Road - Bicycling on the Road
Bicycles in many States are considered vehicles, and cyclists have the same rights and the same responsibilities to follow the rules of the road as motorists. When riding, always:
- Go With the Traffic Flow. Ride on the right in the same direction as other vehicles. Go with the flow – not against it.
- Obey All Traffic Laws. A bicycle is a vehicle and you’re a driver. When you ride in the street, obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings.
- Yield to Traffic When Appropriate. Almost always, drivers on a smaller road must yield (wait) for traffic on a major or larger road. If there is no stop sign or traffic signal and you are coming from a smaller roadway (out of a driveway, from a sidewalk, a bike path, etc.), you must slow down and look to see if the way is clear before proceeding. This also means yielding to pedestrians who have already entered a crosswalk.
- Be Predictable. Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others.
- Stay Alert at All Times. Use your eyes AND ears. Watch out for potholes, cracks, wet leaves, storm grates, railroad tracks, or anything that could make you lose control of your bike. You need your ears to hear traffic and avoid dangerous situations; don’t wear a headset when you ride.
- Look Before Turning. When turning left or right, always look behind you for a break in traffic, then signal before making the turn. Watch for left- or right-turning traffic.
- Watch for Parked Cars. Ride far enough out from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars (like doors opening, or cars pulling out).
Sidewalk versus Street Riding
The safest place for bicycle riding is on the street, where bicycles are expected to follow the same rules of the road as motorists and ride in the same direction.
- Children less than 10 years old, however, are not mature enough to make the decisions necessary to safely ride in the street.
- Children less than 10 years old are better off riding on the sidewalk.
For anyone riding on a sidewalk:
- Check the law in your State or jurisdiction to make sure sidewalk riding is allowed.
- Watch for vehicles coming out of or turning into driveways.
- Stop at corners of sidewalks and streets to look for cars and to make sure the drivers see you before crossing.
- Enter a street at a corner and not between parked cars. Alert pedestrians that you are near by saying, “Excuse me,” or, “Passing on your left,” or use a bell or horn.
It’s not enough to simply buy a bicycle helmet – it should be properly fitted, adjusted, and worn each time you ride. Helmets come in various sizes, just like hats. Size can vary between manufacturers. To select and properly fit a bicycle helmet, follow the helmet fitting instructions. It may take some time to ensure a proper fit. It is easier if you have someone help you adjust the straps.
Step 1 Size: Measure your head for approximate size. Try the helmet on to ensure it fits snuggly. While it is sitting flat on top of your head, make sure the helmet doesn’t rock side to side. Sizing pads come with new helmets; use the pads to securely fit to your head. Mix or match the sizing pads for the greatest comfort. In your child’s helmet, remove the padding when your child’s head grows. If the helmet has a universal fit ring instead of sizing pads, adjust the ring size to fit the head.
Step 2 Position: The helmet should sit level on your head and low on your forehead—one or two finger-widths above your eyebrow.
Step 3 Buckles: Center the left buckle under the chin. On most helmets, the straps can be pulled from the back of the helmet to lengthen or shorten the chin straps. This task is easier if you take the helmet off to make these adjustments.
Step 4 Side Straps: Adjust the slider on both straps to form a “V” shape under, and slightly in front of, the ears. Lock the slider if possible.
Step 5 Chin Strap: Buckle your chin strap. Tighten the strap until it is snug, so that no more than one or two fingers fit under the strap.
Step 6 Final Fitting:
Does your helmet fit right? Open your mouth wide…big yawn! The helmet should pull down on the head. If not, refer back to step 5 and tighten the chin strap.
Does your helmet rock back more than two fingers above the eyebrows? If so, unbuckle, shorten the front strap by moving the slider forward. Buckle, retighten the chin strap, and test again.
Does your helmet rock forward into your eyes? If so, unbuckle, tighten the back strap by moving the slider back toward the ear. Buckle, retighten the chin strap, and test again.
Roll the rubber band down to the buckle. All four straps must go through the rubber band and be close to the buckle to prevent the buckle from slipping.
When to Replace a Helmet. Replace any helmet that has been involved in a crash, or is damaged.
The Helmet Should Fit Now. Buy a helmet that fits your head now, not a helmet to “grow into.” Replace any helmet that has been outgrown.
The Helmet Should Be Comfortable. If it feels small, put in the thinner sizing pads or purchase a larger helmet. Ideally, select a helmet brand and size that fits well prior to any adjustments. If you buy a helmet that you find comfortable and attractive, you are more likely to wear it.
The Helmet Must Cover Your Forehead. The Chin Strap Must Be Tight and Properly Adjusted.
The Helmet Should Not Rock Forward or Backward on Your Head. If it does, see step 6.
A bicycle helmet can protect your head and brain ONLY if you wear it each time you ride!
In Florida, a helmet must be worn by all bicyclists under 16 years old. A bicycle crash can happen at any time. A properly fitted bicycle helmet reduces the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent. More children age 5 to 14 go to hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with bicycles than with any other sport. Many of these injuries involve the head. Helmet laws ensure the safety of our children.
Model Safe Behavior
Everyone — adult and child — should wear bicycle helmets each time they ride. Helmets are the single most effective way to prevent head injuries resulting from bicycle crashes. Wearing a helmet each ride can encourage the same smart behavior in others.
Buy a new helmet that has been tested and meets the uniform safety standard issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); use an old helmet only if it has a seal from one or more of the voluntary bicycle helmet standards, such as ASTM, Snell, or ANSI. Look for the certification seal labeled on the helmet.
- Courtesy. Respect other trail users; joggers, walkers, rollerbladers, wheelchairs all have trail rights. Respect slower cyclists; yield to slower users. Obey speed limits; they are posted for your safety.
- Announce when passing. Use a bell, horn or voice to indicate your intention to pass. Warn other well in advance so you do not startle them. Clearly announce "On your left" when passing.
- Yield when entering and crossing. Yield to traffic at places where the trail crosses the road. Yield to other users at trail intersections. Slow down before intersections and when entering the trail from the road.
- Keep right. Stay as close to the right as possible, except when passing. Give yourself enough room to maneuver around any hazards. Ride single file to avoid possible collisions with other trail users
- Pass on left. Scan ahead and behind before announcing your intention to pass another user. Pull out only when you are sure the lane is clear. Allow plenty of room, about two bike lengths, before moving back to the right.
- Be predictable. Travel in a straight line unless you are avoiding hazards or passing. Indicate your intention to turn or pass. Warn other users of your intentions.
- Use lights at night. Most trail users will not have lights at night; use a white front and red rear light. Watch for walkers as you will overtake them the fastest. Reflective clothing does not help in the absence of light.
- Do not block the trail. For group rides, use no more than half the trail; don't hog the trail. During heavy use periods (holidays and weekends) stay single file. Stop and regroup completely off of the trail.
- Clean up litter. Pack out more than you pack in. Encourage others to respect the path.
Limitations for transportation. Most paths were not designed for high-speed, high volume traffic. Use paths keeping in mind their recreational nature. It might be faster to use roads and avoid the traffic on the paths during heavy use
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