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Bike safety tips for commuters, families, and enthusiasts

Posted by Scott Stueber, CPCU, CISR, AAI on May 2, 2023 10:22:25 AM

Bicycling safety tips 2023-1As nice weather finally approaches, bicycles will be coming out of sheds and down from garage rafters. Whether it be a ride to work, a leisurely ride with family on a Sunday afternoon, or participating in a fundraising event, it is always important to think about bike safety.

The following is a recap of my interview with bike enthusiast Mark Ramsey. Mark is a life-long rider with many years of experience in the bike industry. He owns and operates Pedal Moraine Cycle & Fitness in West Bend.

Q: Bike commuting is growing in popularity. At West Bend, we have a “Bike to Work” program. What are some things to consider before riding to work for the first time?

A: While biking to work is great exercise and is good for the environment, you should not start biking to work without considering a number of things.

  1. Make sure your bike is in proper working condition.

    This means making sure bolts are tight, brakes work, chains are lubed and tires are inflated to the manufacture’s recommend tire pressure. If you have not ridden your bike for a while, or your commute is going to add up to significant miles, consider taking your bike to a local bike store for a tune up. The last thing you want to experience is a breakdown on your first ride to work. A breakdown is not only frustrating, but it also makes you late.

  2. Consider taking a test drive. 

    If you are not sure which route to ride to work or how long it will take, consider driving your car first to map out your route. Once you have a route mapped out take a bike ride on the weekend to see how long it will take you to ride to work. Different routes can affect your ride time. For example, one way to work may be less mileage, but may have many stoplights. The less starting and stopping you do the less wear and tear on your bike and the more enjoyable the ride. If your community has bike paths, take advantage by riding on them as much as possible. If your community does not, look for roads less travelled.

  3. Consider buying some accessories for your bike.

    Accessories can make your commute to work safer and more enjoyable.
  • Mirror

    A mirror can be mounted on your left side handle bar, which will help you keep an eye on traffic behind you. Being able to see the traffic coming from behind you makes left turns safer. Trying to look over your left shoulder could cause you to lose your balance.

  • Bell

    Consider mounting a bell on your handle bar. A bell is necessary if you do trail riding that attracts other outdoor enthusiasts such as walkers, runners, skateboarders/rollerbladers, or slower bicyclists. A bell is a nice signal to others that you are approaching them and will be passing them on their left.
  • Fenders

    Fenders keep debris from flying off your tires and can keep you a bit drier if you are caught in an unexpected summer afternoon rain shower.
  • Headlight and taillight

A headlight and taillight not only allows you to ride at night, they can also offer protection on a nice day. If you ride on a road with high traffic volume consider turning your lights on for additional visibility. The higher the lumens the brighter you’re light.

  • Reflective clothing

Q: As the weather improves, more families will spend their free time enjoying bike rides. What safety tips should parents keep in mind when riding with their children?

A: It is important to understand your child’s riding ability. If you have children under the age of 10, you should consider riding on sidewalks or bike trails. Even when you are riding on sidewalks, you always need to be on the lookout for cars. People may be entering or exiting their driveways forgetting to look for pedestrians; especially if their neighborhood is not active with young children or adults who enjoy walking.

As children gain more experience riding their bike, look for rural roads or quiet subdivisions to ride. When riding in the road, it is important to obey all traffic laws, such as stopping at stop signs, riding single file, and riding with the flow of traffic. While it is okay for pedestrians to walk against traffic, bicyclists should not.

Understanding the rules of the road will make your ride safer and more enjoyable. All 50 states have laws that give bikes the right to ride in the road. You do not need to ride in the gravel or right next to the curb. Bicyclists should ride at a safe distance to the right of the lane. Vehicles are to give you three feet of space as they pass by.

Lastly, if your children are riding on training wheels make sure they are suitable for the riding you do. If your child likes to ride a lot, consider upgrading their training wheels. Wheels that come with the bike are not always made to handle longer rides or more hours on the bike. Visit your local bike store to learn more.

Q: More and more charities are holding events to raise money for their cause. What are some tips to consider when participating in this type of event?

A: It is important to understand the type of event you are registering for. Some events are family-friendly and some are race orientated.

If you enter your family in an event, make sure each family member is an experienced bicyclist. You should not enter an event if the ride is too long or if a family member cannot remain focused. Roads in an event are not necessarily closed and do allow vehicle traffic. In addition, there are other bicyclists to watch out for.

If you are going to participate in a race or long ride, training is important. Follow training schedules and experiment with hydration and food items that will give you energy during your training. For example, if you eat a protein bar on your practice rides, eat one on race day. You never want to introduce or take something away on race day. It is important to remain consistent and do what you did during your training.

Q: Wearing a helmet when biking is important. How can you tell if a bike helmet fits properly?

A: A properly fitted bike helmet should fit like a baseball hat. It should wrap around the crown of your head and it should be flat. If the helmet is too far back on your head, there will be no protection for your forehead. The visor of the helmet should be one or two fingers above your eyebrows.

If the helmet is fitted properly, the straps under your chin don’t need to be overly tight. The function of the straps are to keep the helmet on your head if it hits the road. A poorly fitted helmet will not offer the appropriate amount of protection a bicyclist needs.

Lastly, if you buy your helmet from a bike store, it will usually have a born-on date. The born-on date is very important because as a helmet ages, the material used to soften the blow to the head becomes more rigid and brittle. Therefore, helmets should be replaced every five to seven years.

Do you have any biking tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.

Disclaimer: Before you begin an exercise routine, please consult with your physician.

Topics: Family Safety, Health Tips, Bicycle Safety

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