More than a thousand Americans die from bicycle accidents every year while countless others suffer catastrophic injuries.
Many of these could be avoided if proper safety precautions were taken.
Just ride the trails, streets or parks of Bucks County and watch how many people aren’t wearing helmets, don’t signal properly and lack warning lights on the back and/or front of their bikes.
Granted, a number of these mishaps are caused by automobile driver misjudgment. It’s a dangerous world out there. But if you are going to ride, why not take every safety option available to put the odds in your favor?
The National Safety Council says of the 1,024 U.S. bicyclist deaths in 2017, 679 of them involved motor vehicles.
Chances are, those numbers will be much higher by the time 2020 ends, mainly because more people than ever are looking to bike for badly needed exercise during the pandemic.
Consider this: There are an estimated 80 million bicyclists out there, so some accidents are inevitable. But for every crash involving negligence by a car, there’s probably another where the cyclist was at fault. It’s a two-way street.
There’s a “four-foot’’ law in Pennsylvania which states a car must give a cyclist at least that much leeway when passing. Those of us who cycle know that isn’t always the cast.
So stay awake out there. Have a rear-view mirror on your two-wheeler to observe approaching vehicles, especially trucks.
And here are five tips concerning bike equipment provided by NSC:
>The seat should be adjusted to the proper height and locked in place.
>Be certain all parts are secure and working properly.
>Check that the tires are inflated properly.
>Make sure the bike is equipped with reflectors on the rear, front, pedals and spokes.
>A horn or bell, a rear-view mirror and a bright headlight also are recommended.
>At all times, confirm drivers can see you.
>Wear neon, fluorescent or other bright clothing.
>Whenever possible, ride during the day
>If you must ride at night, wear reflective clothing and use flashing lights.
Helmets are a must, even though they can be a nuisance when the thermometer gets above 80.
So often we see helmet-less riders pedaling down the Delaware Canal towpath at 12 to 15 miles per hour. Does anyone actually believe that a crash and fall on hard-packed clay is any less of a concussion risk than banging one’s noggin on pavement? Well, it isn’t.
According to the NSC, helmets appropriate for bicycling should be worn by everyone – adults and children – on every bike ride regardless of length of the ride. Make certain the helmet is certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Follow these guidelines from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to properly fit the helmet:
>Adjust sizing pads or fit ring until the helmet is snug.
>Position the helmet level on your head, covering the forehead and not tipped backward or forward; this will be about one to two finger widths above the eyebrow.
>Adjust the side straps so they form a “V” shape under and slightly in front of your ears.
>Center the buckle on the chin strap under your chin.
>Buckle and tighten the chin strap until it is snug; no more than one to two fingers should be able to fit between the chin and strap.
You might be surprised how many cyclists don’t follow fundamental rules of the road. Here are a few basic ones:
>Get acquainted with traffic laws; bicyclists must follow the same rules as motorists.
>Ride single-file in the direction of traffic.
>Remain alert, keep your head up and look around; watch for opening car doors and other hazards.
>Use hand signals when turning and use extra care at intersections.
>Never hitch onto cars.
>Before entering traffic, stop and look left, right, left again and over your shoulder.
And finally, a few more common-sense suggestions:
>When riding alone, carry I.D. in case an emergency arises.
>Learn how to fix a flat and carry a repair kit under your bike seat.
>If you’re riding in traffic and want to listen to music, do so on an external speaker (not headphones).
>Walk your bike (and wear a mask) on all Delaware River bridge crossings.
>Check the weather forecast before you leave. Riding a metal bike in a lightning storm is not the best plan of action.