Safe Bike Riding Tips
- Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet. Protect your brain. Maximize your safety by always wearing a helmet. It can save your life in the event of a collision or fall. Learn more on how to properly fit a helmet by reading "Steps to properly fit a bicycle helmet" below.
- Adjust your bicycle to fit. Stand over your bicycle. There should be one to two inches between you and the top tube (bar) if using a road bike and three to four inches if using a mountain bike. 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 as the seat.
- Check your equipment. Before riding, inflate tires properly and check that your brakes work.
- See and be seen. Whether daytime or nighttime, dawn or dusk, or in the event of bad weather you need to be seen by others for everyone's safety. Wearing white has not been shown to make you more visible. Instead, wear neon, fluorescent or other bright colors when riding. 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.
- 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. Place 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. Many bicycle-related crashes resulting in injury or death are associated with the bicyclist's behavior, including not wearing a helmet, riding into a street without stopping, turning into traffic that is coming from behind, running a stop sign and riding the wrong way in traffic.
- Control your bicycle. 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 or even animals to avoid a crash. When riding in a group the lead should yell out the hazard and point to the hazard to alert the riders.
Steps to Properly Fit a Bicycle Helmet
A bicycle helmet should be properly fitted, adjusted and worn each time you ride. Helmets come in various sizes and can vary in size among manufacturers.
- 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 the helmet to your head. Mix or match the sizing pads for the greatest comfort. When your child's head grows, remove the padding. If the helmet has a universal fit ring instead of the pads, adjust the ring size to fit the head.
- Position: The helmet should sit level on your head and low on your forehead—one or two finger-widths above your eyebrow.
- 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. The helmet is easier to adjust if you take the helmet off.
- 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.
- 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.
- Final fitting: To check if your helmet fits right, open your mouth wide as if taking a big yawn. The helmet should pull down on the head. If not, refer back to the chin strap step above and tighten the chin strap.
- If your helmet rocks back more than two fingers above the eyebrows, unbuckle and shorten the front strap by moving the slider forward. Buckle, retighten the chin strap and test again.
- If your helmet rocks forward into your eyes, unbuckle and 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.
- Buy a helmet that fits the person's head now. Don't buy a helmet to grow into it. Replace any helmet that has been outgrown.
- The helmet should be comfortable. If it feels small, put in the thinner sizing pads or buy a larger helmet. Ideally, select a helmet brand and size that fits well prior to any adjustments.
- Replace any helmet that has been involved in a crash or is damaged.
In Florida, a helmet must be worn by all bicyclists under 16 years old. A properly fitted bicycle helmet significantly reduces the risk of head and brain injury. Many bicycle crash injuries involve the head.
Model safe behavior
Everyone 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. 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.
Rules to Riding 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).
Riding on the Sidewalk
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. However, children less than 10 years old might not be mature enough to make the decisions necessary to safely ride in the street. Children in this age group are better off riding on the sidewalk.
When riding on a sidewalk:
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,'' ''Passing on your left,'' or use a bell or horn.
Rules to Bike Riding on Trails
- Show courtesy to others. Respect joggers, walkers, rollerbladers and wheelchairs. Respect slower bicyclists and yield to slower users. Obey speed limits for everyone's safety.
- Announce when passing. Use a bell, horn or your voice in advance to indicate your intention to pass. 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 others 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 others.
- Pass on left. Scan ahead and behind before announcing your intention to pass someone. 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 and warn other users of your intentions.
- Use lights at night. Most other trail users will not have lights at night. Place a white front light and red rear light on your bicycle. Watch for walkers as you will overtake them the fastest. Reflective clothing does not make you visible where there is no light.
- Do not block the trail. For group rides, use no more than half the trail. Share the trail with others. During heavy use periods (holidays and weekends), stay in a 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 trails.
- Limitations for transportation. Most paths were not designed for high-speed or high-volume traffic. It might be faster to use roads and avoid the traffic on the trails during heavy use.
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