Life-saving bike safety tips you need to know

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For many, a bicycle is a symbol of fun and freedom, and some use it as a method of transportation. While people may have trouble first learning to ride a bike, once they get the hang of it, it can be a great way to exercise. An often-overlooked piece is a solid understanding of bike safety.

Wear a Helmet

A bike helmet is a critical piece of cycling gear. It seems so simple, but some people choose to not wear a helmet.

“Helmets immensely reduce the risk of severe brain injuries,” said Alex Hishaw, MD, a neurologist with Banner – University Medical Center in Tucson. Dr. Hishaw added it’s important to not only wear a helmet, but to wear a properly fitted one.

When choosing a bike helmet, you have a lot of options. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests some things to look for to make sure you stay on top of bike safety:

  • The helmet should fit snuggly, but not tightly, with no spaces between the foam inside the helmet and the head
  • Make sure it doesn’t sit too high in the front or too low in the back
  • 1 or 2 fingers should be able to fit between the chin and the chin strap when fastened

Also, a good rule of thumb is to get a new helmet every 3 to 5 years. Remember, if your helmet is ever damaged or involved in an accident, replace it right away.

Build a Flexible Medical Kit

One thing everyone should have with them when riding is a medical kit. It doesn’t need to be big and bulky, but there are some items to always have on hand in case of an emergency.

Dr. Christopher Williams, an Emergency medicine specialist and wilderness medicine expert at Banner – University Medical Center in Tucson, suggested making a personal medical kit. This way riders do not have to carry around items they won’t use. Here are his suggestions based on the different rides a bicyclist might take:

  • Bare-bones kit: cell phone, bandages, safety pins and duct tape (you can create your own smaller roll from the larger one).
  • Downhill or short trail ride: bare-bones kit, plus gauze or Israeli bandage (an emergency bandage that provides pressure to stop bleeding), combat gauze, Ace wrap or self-adherent wrap, a triangular bandage, comb or hair pick for cholla cactus removal (if in the desert) and a multi-tool.
  • Multi-day or long trail ride: all the above, plus Steri-Strips, tissue glue or superglue, water purifier, epinephrine pen, over-the-counter pain medication, antibiotic ointment, map and compass (plus or minus GPS), bivouac sack (small, lightweight waterproof shelter), whistle, headlight, matches or lighter and a splint.

Learn the Rules of the Road

When riding on the road, it’s important to understand local and state laws to keep yourself and those around you safe. Wear bright clothing and make sure your bike has any required reflectors or lights, if you ride after dark. Also, remember to ride with the flow of traffic and know the common signals for turning, stopping, etc.

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