Summer is on its way, and with it comes a sea of sportsmen. All over the world, men, women, and children are ditching their coats and exchanging their jeans for shorts. The older crowd also makes a change from a standard walk or drive to a bike ride.
Bicycles are an efficient method of travel, mainly because they can be ridden almost anywhere in almost any weather. They are also environmentally friendly – note the lack of toxic fumes – and allow for refreshing exercise.
But, even biking has its rules and limitations; and when using a small and mobile mode of transportation that is hardly noticed by traffic, let alone pedestrians, these rules and limitations can mean the matter of life and death for yourself and others.
Without further ado, let’s look at the top ten rules for riding a bike this summer.
1. Wear a helmet
You’ve probably heard this all of your life from parents, friends, teachers, et cetera. But, a helmet is more than just a mere suggestion. Cyclists have fractured skulls or bashed their heads in altogether because they neglected to wear a helmet. The results are usually fatal, leaving family members grieving and heartbroken. True, not every accident is caused by not wearing a helmet, but to take that risk is to not only ignore your own welfare but the welfare of those you love.
If cost is the main concern, worry not. Bike helmets are usually in high supply at thrift stores and cost a lot less than those in a department store.
2. Don’t ride distracted
You’ve heard “don’t drive distracted” many times in driver’s education classes. Riding a bike isn’t any different. Never ride a bike distracted. Contrary to popular belief, you are the least visible on the road. Your ride is smaller than a standard car and is only slightly faster than a pedestrian. The non-biking community does not expect you. What does this mean? You need to keep your wits about you. The only way to do that is to focus, something you can’t really do if you have another person chatting in one ear and One Direction singing in the other ear. While eliminating these distractions might make your ride less pleasurable, at the very least, it will keep you alive and get you safely home, where you can turn the music on at full blast.
Technically, riding on the sidewalk is considered hazardous and unsafe, but it is still common in college towns and big cities. If you are going to ride on the sidewalk or a park/nature trail with pedestrians, you need to be careful. To a pedestrian, bikes are the ninjas of transportation: invisible, inaudible, and violent if gone unnoticed. Signal when you’re about to pass someone. Some of the most effective signals have been bike bells or horns, but a simple “passing on the left” as you approach is really all you need to keep you and another person safe.
4. Stay hydrated and eat
Summer is not just the season of tans and swimsuits. It’s also the hottest and driest season of the year. You would never go to the beach without something hydrating and appetite-quenching. You should never go biking without these same components. Cycling requires lots of physical exertion, which means it drains a lot of energy. Keep plenty of water on hand as well as snacks. This will prevent you from getting heat stroke and fatigue.
5. Avoid tricks
Tricks are rad. Tricks are cool. Tricks make you feel like the next Tony Hawk or Olympic athlete. Tricks also land you in a hospital, and that’s if you’re wearing the proper protective equipment. On the more extreme end of the spectrum, they can – and have – resulted in death. If you’re thinking about riding to impress this summer, do so at your own risk.
6. Ride solo
This should always be a given (unless you own a tandem bike or have a bike trailer for the little ones). One seat means one rider. It might seem fun or even romantic to have that special someone riding on the handlebars with you as you pedal, but it is also dangerous. The added hundred-or-so pounds will affect the balance, maneuverability, and power pedal of a bike. Not to mention, the actual cyclist has decreased visibility. If you really want to do something special with the ones you care about, ride bikes together (note: bikes in the plural) or share a car ride, but don’t ride the same bike if there’s only one designated seat.
It’s tedious, it’s boring, and it makes you feel like an overzealous museum curator. It’s the necessary, but near-always-neglected pre-check inspection! While it is considered all of the above, a pre-check assures a safe and comfortable ride, free of flat tires and loose chains. Not to mention, it will evaluate the bike’s maneuverability and control before riding. If there are any major malfunctions that must be amended, see a professional before riding.
8. Keep a first-aid kit
If you follow the bike rules above, you are guaranteed a safer ride, it’s true. But, even the safest riders end up injured. It’s always better to treat a wound sooner rather than later so that it won’t become infected. Keep a mini first-aid kit with you, and make sure it has plenty of bandages, antibiotics, gauze, and any other necessary implements as seen fit. Even if you don’t end up injured on a ride, a first-aid kit always comes in handy if you come across someone else that’s hurt.
9. Stand out
Going back to Rule 2, you aren’t always visible on the road. You can increase your visibility by wearing bright clothes and accessories. It doesn’t have to be something you’d wear all day. If you need to be wearing something formal for the day’s commute, put on a bright helmet, armband, or safety vest. Each of these can be removed upon arrival at your destination, but they will alert drivers to your whereabouts. Just remember: a cyclist’s gear is only as good as his riding. Just because you’re more visible does no mean you can let your guard down.
10. Know your bike laws
Every state has its own cycling laws, so make sure you know yours. If the law says stick to a bike lane, do it. If it says to use headlights and taillights in the evenings, you definitely want to do it. If safety is not a big enough issue, consider this: disobeying bike laws can and will result in fines and penalties. You should always know the bike laws of your home state, but you should also research the bike laws if you plan on biking in another state.
Now that you have all the rules to keep you safe, put on your helmet and safety vest and enjoy your safe and relaxing commute!