People cycle for different reasons. Some do it for fun, some for fitness purposes, some as a sport, or even as a mode of transportation. Regardless of your reason for cycling, the bottom line is that you need to understand the aspects of bike safety. This is paramount because it minimizes your risk of fatal accidents and injuries. Similarly, cycling with care makes the activity ten times as fun because you have less to worry about. That said, take a look at several tips for safe cycling.
How Can I Cycle Safely?
Cycling has become very popular in recent years. But its increased popularity has led to many concerns, due to the many associated injuries and accidents. For example, in a 2020 study, evidence suggests that in Australia, 0.29 crashes were reported per 1000 km cycled (3).
Similarly, the same study acknowledged a Dutch survey that reported 31% lethal traffic accidents in 2012, with 59% of the accident victims treated in the ER being cyclists (3). In light of this, here are some safety tips for cycling on the road:
Before cycling on the road or park, you must first learn how to cycle.
Unfortunately, many people assume this activity is easy, only to be proved otherwise on the road or highway. Again, it is safe to train kids before letting them cycle alone to minimize injury and accident risks. So, under proper training, you must (4):
- Seek the help of an experienced rider, parent, or community program.
- Go through the learning basics, including simple instructions such as maintaining balance and proper pedaling.
- Cycle under proper supervision during the initial training stage, especially for younger riders.
- Practice in a safe environment like enclosed areas such as a backyard instead of a busy highway or on the road.
Read More: Is Biking Aerobic Or Anaerobic? Yes, You CAN Cycle Your Way To Weight Loss
Invest In The Right Gear!
The second safety precaution for safe cycling is an investment in safety equipment. When most people think of the right gear, they immediately think of helmets. But your bike is the first piece of equipment you have to invest in.
Before you even get the helmet, first make sure you have the proper bike. Make sure it is of the right height, has all parts, and they are fixed well and functioning correctly. After you do this, get the following protective equipment (4):
- A helmet
- Reflective clothing for low-visibility conditions or nighttime
- Reflectors on frame and wheels
Check Your Equipment
It is essential to check if you have all the equipment before you head out. Below are some things you can inspect before cycling (4):
- If the tires are inflated
- If your seat is adjusted to the proper height and locked in place
- If the brakes are functioning properly
- If you have a reflective material on or something that reflects lights such as reflective tape or flashing lights
- If your horn or bell is working accordingly
- If your rear-view mirror is well-adjusted
Nothing can ruin a perfect cycling session like being poorly dressed. It can make you uncomfortable and reduce your focus on the road. Be sure to dress for cycling and according to the weather.
For cycling on balmy days, consider lightweight and light-colored clothing as they do not hold the heat (1). This applies to your bike shorts, jersey, socks, and gloves. If it’s cool outside, consider a long-sleeved jersey, arm and leg warmers, and full-fingered gloves (1).
Familiarize With The Road Rules
All cyclists must be familiar with the rules, such as how to share the road with car drivers and pedestrians. As well as (4):
- Which, when, and how to use hand signals
- How to ride in a group
- The meaning of different crossings
- The required cycling speed in different areas
- Yielding right-of-way
- Driving and drinking laws
- If they can carry passengers and the required number of attached seats
After understanding these rules, cyclists must adhere to them to promote their safety and that of other road users. That said, do not run red lights just because there is no traffic. Similarly, signal clearly and ride at the center of your lane on quiet roads or in slow-moving traffic.
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A lot can go wrong when cycling. So, it would be best to stay alert regardless of where you are cycling. Pay attention to the uneven surfaces, sewer grating, poorly lit areas, new unexplored territories, opening car doors, and debris on roads.
Cyclists are advised to avoid wearing headphones so that they can hear pedestrians and be alert to the traffic. Again, never text or operate your cell phone when cycling, as it takes your concentration away from the road (4).
Look In All Directions
It would help if you also looked in all directions while cycling to minimize accident risk. You have to be keen at intersections, crosswalks, and driveways, as these are common areas where accidents involving cyclists occur. Similarly, be sure to use hand signals to alert motorists of your intended direction to reduce confusion and accident risk. Use hand signals that are familiar to motorists.
Familiarize With Your Surroundings
The other safety precaution for cyclists is to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. For example, if it is an urban environment, a cyclist must be aware of potentially relevant and irrelevant targets that may pose a threat.
Similarly, if it is a park, the cyclist must know they are sharing it with other people and reduce their speed. Finally, if it is a bike trail, a cyclist should be cautious when exploring for the first time to familiarize themselves with the terrain.
You can also cycle on sidewalks and school grounds, but be mindful of the people or other bicycle-designated areas. Another safety precaution when exploring your surroundings is doing it in a group or with a friend. It is always safer to explore new areas with someone than alone for safety purposes. But if you have to cycle alone, be sure to plan your route and inform someone, wear protective gear, and stay alert.
Safe and smart cycling also requires you to be vocal in some instances (4). For example, when cycling on sidewalks, you must be vocal to alert pedestrians. For example, you can tell them “passing on your left” before overtaking them.
Read More: Does Cycling Burn Belly Fat? Here’s What Fitness Experts Have To Say
Cycle With Care
Lastly, but most importantly, you need to cycle with care. For one, cycling with care means cycling in a straight line. Do not hold onto trucks, especially if the driver cannot see you. Secondly, try to be predictable in your movements and avoid sudden moves that can distract other cyclists, motorists, or pedestrians.
Cycling with care also entails good positioning on the road so that other road users can easily spot you. Additionally, keep both hands on the handbrakes, so it is easier to get hold of them when necessary (4). Finally, using both brakes is much smoother and reduces the possibility of the wheel skidding and you coming off.
How Much Cycling Is Safe?
Besides the above safety precautions, you may be interested to know if there is a safe cycling limit. Unfortunately, most literature does not indicate such a limit. If you are cycling for weight loss, the idea is to perform this activity long enough to make your body burn more calories. For example, Mayo Clinic shows an individual weighing 160 pounds can burn 292 calories in an hour when cycling at a speed of less than ten mph (2).
Remember that despite cycling for a longer amount of time, weight loss is also affected by other factors such as your age, genes, gender, and race. That said, increasing the time limit does not automatically mean you will shed tremendous weight.
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The Bottom Line
Cycling is a fun and beneficial activity and sport. But, there are safety precautions set in place to minimize injury and accident risks. These safe cycling precautions include buying the right bike, wearing protective gear, staying alert, understanding and obeying the road rules, and cycling with care. Be sure to get help from an experienced cyclist if you are interested in trying this activity.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Best clothing for cycling (2022, markelinsurance.com)
- Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Injuries related to bicycle accidents: an epidemiological study in The Netherlands (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Principles of Bicycle Safety (2020, webmd.com)