Bike riding is good for people and communities. It improves health and fitness, and it reduces our carbon footprint as well as traffic. However, there are significant health and safety risks associated with bicycle riding. Each year, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are treated in emergency departments, and more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries.
Just recently we had a scare at the health department when one of our senior staff members had a tire blow out while going downhill. As you can imagine she flew over her handle bars and suffered a number of injuries sending her to the ICU. Thankfully she was ok. Her helmet was destroyed, but her skull wasn’t. The importance of helmets is that simple.
Bicycle helmets are the single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from a bicycle crash, so it’s important to wear a helmet every time you ride. To maximize protection, be sure the helmet fits properly. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position and should not rock forward, backward or side to side. The Johns Hopkins Children’s Safety Center, run by the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, offers free bike helmet fittings and also supplies reduced-cost helmets. For more information about their program, or call 410-614-5587 for more information.
Even with a well-fitting helmet, bicyclists need to exercise caution and good judgment to insure that every ride is a safe one. The League of American Bicyclists has some great safety tips for bicyclists including:
- Follow the Rules of the Road
- Be Visible
- Be Predicable
- Anticipate Conflicts
- Wear a Helmet
Bike safety is not just a concern for cyclists, but for motorists as well. You can check out AAA for a longer list of tips, but the bottom line is:
- Stay alert
- Yield to bicyclists when turning.
- Slow down and give at least 3 feet of clearance when passing.
- Always check for bicyclists before opening your car door.
I was glad to see when I moved to Baltimore that work is being done to increase the number of bike lanes we have. While I haven’t yet gotten into the routine of riding to work, I have ventured out on my bike. If you see me around on my hybrid, make sure to wave!
In recognition of National Bike Month, the Baltimore City Health Department will promote the safe use of bicycles throughout May by participating in BikeBaltimore, the Department of Transportation’s bike program. BikeBaltimore organizes a variety of events around Baltimore City to encourage safe bicycle riding, from bicycle maintenance to group rides.
How are you planning to celebrate Bike Month? Do you use biking as a way to stay fit? Can you offer any other safety tips for cyclists? Let me know in the comments.