Head injuries are one of the most serious consequences of a bicycle crash. Even if you can’t see the damage, your brain can be hurt when it hits the inside of your skull, permanently altering the way you walk, talk and think.
Your best protection against head injuries is a safety-approved bike helmet, which can reduce the risk of brain injury by up to 85%. But wearing a helmet is only half the battle - it must be properly fitted for you to be fully protected.
- Wear your helmet every time you ride, and remember:
- The helmet should fit snugly on your head.
- Put foam pads inside the helmet if your head is an ‘in between’ size.
- The helmet should be worn level on the head, parallel to the ground.
- The chin straps should form a ‘V’ directly under the earlobes.
- The fastened strap should be tight enough to allow 1 finger between it and your chin.
Your safety also depends on the condition of your bicycle. Inspect your bike before each ride to ensure:
- the brakes and chain are working properly
- the tires are fully inflated
- the seat and handlebars are tightly secured
A cyclist’s responsibilities
Before your feet hit the pedals it’s also important to brush up on your cycling savvy. Knowing the rules of the road will help you bike with confidence and goes a long way towards preventing collisions.
- Keep in mind where you can and cannot ride. Bicycles are considered vehicles, just like cars and trucks, which means cyclists must ride on the road and not the sidewalk. When you’re on the street, ride with the flow of traffic and obey all traffic signs.
- Ride on the right-hand side of the road whenever possible so that faster-moving vehicles can pass you. To make a left turn, shoulder check for other vehicles, signal, and move into the appropriate lane when it is safe to do so.
- Wear brightly colored clothing in order to make yourself and your bicycle more visible. Reflectors and a headlamp will also improve your chances of being seen, especially at night.
Despite all of these precautions, even the most seasoned cyclist can be involved in a collision. That’s why motorists also need to do their part to keep everyone safe on the road.
A driver’s responsibilities
As a driver, understand that cyclists have every right to share the road with you.
- Scan the street in front of you and check your mirrors often to avoid being surprised by a bicycle in your path. At night, drive with caution and watch for neon clothing, reflectors and lights.
- Passing a cyclist can be tricky, especially during times of heavy traffic. Some cyclists will move into the turning lane to allow motorists to go by, but if the lane is unavailable you must wait until it is safe and prudent to pass.
- Keep a safe distance from cyclists when you’re waiting to move past them. Bicycles can stop quickly so the consequences of following too closely can be fatal.
Whether you choose to ride a bicycle or drive a car or truck, always obey the rules of the road and respect everyone on it. After all, we’re all headed in the same direction – a safe and happy ride home.
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