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Bicycle Safety Tips

Over 45 Tips to Keep You Safe on the Road

-- By Leanne Beattie, Health & Fitness Writer
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Whether you want to cut down on pollution or you want to get in shape, riding a bike is a great way to get around. But your trip could end in tragedy if you don’t ride safely. Just like driving a vehicle on the road, cyclists must observe what’s around them at all times and make sure that other drivers see them too. Here are some safety tips and guidelines to help ensure your ride goes smoothly.

Safety starts before you even mount your bike. Before you ride:
  • Check to make sure that all parts are secured and in working order each time you ride.
  • Examine your wheels to check the tire pressure and inflate to recommended maximum pressure—look for damage and tread wear.
  • Keep spokes tight and replace broken ones promptly.
  • Examine the brake pads, cables and housings to ensure that all brake pads open and close together smoothly.
  • Next, check the chain for damaged links and keep the chain clean and well lubricated.
Once you have completed your safety check, take a slow ride in an area free of traffic to ensure that the bike is functioning properly and lightly bounce the bike on the ground while you listen for any loose parts that may need attention.

For maximum safety, outfit your bike with a bell, front and back reflectors, rear-view mirrors, fenders (for rainy rides) and a rack, basket or bike bag to help you carry items without taking your hands off the handlebars. Some municipalities will fine you if your bike is not equipped with a bell or other safety features so check your local bylaws before hitting the road.

Rules of the Road
Although they are not motorized, bicycles are considered vehicles, so you must know all traffic laws and safety hand signals, which tell motorists what you intend to do. Always signal with your left hand at least 100 feet before you turn but keep both hands on the handlebars as you make the actual turn.
  • Left turn: Extend your left arm straight out to your side (horizontally).
  • Right turn: With your elbow bent, hold your arm up in an "L" shape. (An alternative, but less common, right turn signal is to extend your right arm straight out to your side.)
  • Stop or sudden slow down: With your elbow bent, hold your arm down in an upside-down “L” shape.
Competing with heavy traffic is always dangerous, so take less traveled routes whenever possible and follow designated bike paths when available. Ride on the right side of the street in a straight line, in single file with other bike riders. Drive near the curb in the same direction as traffic but stay about a car door’s width away from parked cars in case someone tries to exit the vehicle in front of you suddenly. Keep your bike steady and ride in a predictable, straight line—never weave from lane to lane which forces drivers to guess what your next move might be.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • SHKHILL
    Did the article mention that bikes, like all vehicles, must stop for stop signs and red lights? Absolutely essential. And it's a really bad idea to have in ear buds while pedalling, or texting. - 10/30/2013 11:50:38 AM
  • My husband wants to ride in our neighborhood but I am leery about doing so. For one thing, there is no shoulder, it's curvy and hilly, and people drive like maniacs. And secondly, he flat out refuses to wear a helmet. Scares me too much. - 5/28/2013 9:30:02 AM
  • great tips! Everyone ride safe!!! - 5/6/2013 6:50:35 PM
  • THEGORGESBLONDE's tips are very important. As someone who drove more than 40 hours a week for 25 years, let me add that movement is what catches a driver's eye. Reflectors on the tire spokes that are in different position so they don't move in tandem are very good; so is something that can be seen from the back and moves, such as reflective tape on your calves and heels. Reflective tape is much better than reflectors, and flashing rear lights are better than steady. Dusk and dawn are the hardest times for drivers to see, so be sure to use lights. Always wear dayglo colors, even in daytime; pink has been tested as the most visible. And if you think helmets are a pain, search for a video of a motorcycle hitting some cyclists. SP won't let me paste the link. - 5/6/2013 12:41:54 PM
  • JOJOWOODY- try Ikea. We have bright yellow vests for the whole family courtesy of Ikea. - 5/6/2013 12:28:07 PM
  • The article is right on time. Just brought my bike home yesterday. - 6/6/2012 3:19:55 PM
  • SERENAJL
    CPSC is actually another one of the safety certifications that supersedes ANSI. Good article. - 6/5/2012 10:07:41 AM
  • MICHELLEMAE1970
    :-) - 5/19/2012 10:00:08 AM
  • I have just started riding a bike again and I found this article very helpful. Thanks - 5/6/2011 5:31:46 PM
  • ROSAMIRIAM
    thatiswonderful - 12/13/2009 10:20:39 AM
  • THEGORGESBLONDE
    I rarely ride a bike on surface streets, since it's very dangerous, and I know too many people who have been seriously hurt. As a driver, please let me add that riding in the fog is particularly dangerous, since visibility becomes so restricted and there may not be time to react. Additionally, when cresting a hill, please be sure to get to the right as soon as possible -- the car coming up the hill directly behind you will not see you. - 10/26/2009 4:51:11 PM
  • My daughter fell on her face and her cheek was terribly scratched. I had just adjusted her helmet minutes before to prevent a serious injury. She was headed downhill! - 4/23/2009 12:12:07 PM
  • When I shared news with 'my team' about getting a bicycle, one of team members stressed about getting the helmet for my safety. Which I finally did and I'm glad.
    Drivers on the road aren't that courteous as it is and I'm constantly watching as I pedal along.
    I hope I never have to test the helmet. :o) - 2/15/2009 6:31:19 AM
  • my son and i enjoy riding in evenings and on weekends when he doesn't have homework. we enjoy it a lot.
    found myself a vest to fit in the hunters section but cannot find one tyo fit an 8 year old. any ideas?
    - 11/28/2008 7:34:59 PM
  • my son and i enjoy riding in evenings and on weekends when he doesn't have homework. we enjoy it a lot.
    found myself a vest to fit in the hunters section but cannot find one tyo fit an 8 year old. any ideas?
    - 11/28/2008 7:34:47 PM
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