May is National Bike Month, a celebration of cyclists and the pastime they enjoy. Whether you ride a bicycle to work or school, or for exercise, National Bike Month is a great reminder of how to stay safe while biking on the road.
According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, in Georgia, as in most states, the bicycle is legally a vehicle, meaning that general traffic laws apply to cyclists. And because bikes share the road with cars and trucks, accidents can happen.
Sean Sue, M.D., an Emergency Medicine physician at Piedmont Hospital, says the most important safety tip for a cyclist is to always wear a helmet. “Head injuries account for two thirds of all bicycle-related deaths,” he says. “Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by more than 85 percent.”
A good-fitting helmet should be snug but not annoyingly tight, Dr. Sue says. It should sit level on your head, not tilted back, with the front edge no more than one inch above your eyebrows. And, it should have the Consumer Product Safety Commission label on it.
If a cyclist has a crash, even a minor one, he or she should seek medical attention immediately.
“A minor head injury may still be a marker of a serious brain injury,” says Dr. Sue. “Emergency evaluation is needed for head injury associated with any symptoms such as severe headache, vomiting, loss of consciousness, confusion, dizziness, and/or large amount of scalp swelling.”
Dr. Sue adds that anyone taking blood thinners should seek medical attention if they suffer what seems to be even the most trivial head injury.
Cyclists should also wear proper clothing. Don’t wear pants or shorts that are too loose and might be a hazard. Wear sneakers or other supportive footwear. And, layer your clothing to deal with temperature changes.
The League of American Bicyclists offers these tips for bike safety.
Follow the Rules of the Road
Ride with traffic and obey the same laws as motorists. Always look back and use hand and arm signals to indicate your intention to stop, merge or turn.
Ride where drivers can see you, and wear brightly colored clothing. At night, use a white front light and red rear light or reflector.
Ride in a straight line and don’t swerve between parked cars. Make eye contact with motorists to let them know you are there.
Be aware of traffic around you and be prepared to take evasive action. Learn braking and turning techniques to avoid crashes.
Wear a Helmet
Make sure that the helmet fits on top of your head, not tipped back or forward. Replace helmets compromised after any type of crash.
“If you follow these simple rules, this sport will be not only safer, but more enjoyable,” says Dr. Sue.
If you are interested in a hands-on bike safety experience, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition offers bicycle classes that teach the rules of the road and safety tips.
Tips for Drivers
When you drive your car, are you confident on how to share the road with bicyclists? Here are a few tips.
- Be patient. Don’t be in a hurry to pass a cyclist.
- Make sure you have enough room before passing. Don’t put the cyclist in danger.
- Expect cyclists on the road. They have a right to be there. Show them respect.
- Wait for cyclists when you are turning right or left. They may be planning to go straight through the intersection.
- Watch out for children and others on bikes when backing out of your driveway.
- Try it yourself. Ride a bike for a day to understand the issues cyclists face. You might enjoy the ride, too.