People perceive cycling as unsafe. When you think of an accident involving a vehicle and a bicycle, you will expect that the person on the bike is in more danger than the vehicle's occupants. Everything from the size of the bike to the amount of the cyclist’s body that is exposed puts cyclists in a more dangerous position.
Bicycle safety is paramount if you want to avoid injuries and damages that can be too intense. The fact is that motorists can avoid many crashes if they adhere to cycling safety and road rules.
Riding a bicycle is healthy, and it's a way of having fun. Some people also love riding because it makes them feel independent. However, it is vital to remember that a bicycle is a vehicle and safety precautions should be taken into consideration.
In this article, you will learn about risk factors associated with biking and cycling safety tips. Read on to find out everything you need to do to be safe from bicycle accidents.
Risk factors associated with cycling
Cycling has several risk factors that can sometimes be tragic. However, cyclists have indicated low mortality rates when compared with other types of accidents. Here are the risk factors associated with cycling.
Cyclists can suffer from physical trauma that includes head injuries and injuries resulting from collisions and falls. Most cyclists lose their lives when they get involved in an accident with a car.
Motorists and cyclists are all to be blamed for causing collisions due to neglecting road rules. Most accidents between cyclists and motorists occur due to car-dooring. However, there have been accidents that do not involve another person or another vehicle.
Most bicycle collisions happen during the day, but one still needs to have all the equipment required to ensure night cycling safety. For instance, you would need bicycle safety lights to allow for visibility in the dark.
Overuse or Frequent-use injuries
When cycling, you will be forced to assume a particular posture that may cause injuries to the body after cycling for too long. Most people sustain injuries o their neck, knees, and on the groin or the buttocks area. Women are the most vulnerable to assume a poor position and sustain overuse injuries.
Most cyclists get injuries on their knees and because of the following factors:
★ Adjusting the clipless pedals the wrong way
★ Having to cycle for long hours on hilly terrain, they do not have enough training and experience with such environments.
★ Using inappropriate cycling gear will make the cycling hard that it makes the knees hurt. For instance, one should use a lower gear when climbing and a high gear when descending a hill or riding on a flat surface.
Like chronic nerve damage, overuse injuries can happen when one rides for long periods without taking a break.
Some of the damages that may occur include damage to the palm’s ulnar nerve, genitourinary tract, and the wrist’s carpal tunnel due to overuse. While some bicycles have been designed to reduce pressure from the handlebars and the saddle, some bikes do not have these features. Therefore, one needs to be careful while using them.
Overuse differs from one individual to another. It depends on one's experience, the terrain, and the level of body fitness.
A person starting out riding is at a high risk of suffering an overuse injury; therefore, they should be careful when increasing the length and their cycling frequency. Starting at an hour or two per day will help beginners from sustaining injuries.
The signs of overuse injuries are pain and numbness, although this should not be confused with bilateral muscular pain that is normal pain that results from training.
Saddle related risks
Saddles come in different sizes, shapes, and positions. These factors determine the possibility of causing an injury.
A high positioned saddle leads to posterior knee pain. On the other hand, very low saddles affect the anterior knee. A saddle that has an incorrect position can make one suffer from muscle imbalance. You should ensure that you maintain a 25 to 35 degrees knee angle to be safe from any injuries.
If the seat exerts pressure on the perineum, one can become sexually impotent. Therefore, people need to ensure that their seat is sized correctly and well-fitted. An improper seat size can also cause extreme cases like prudential nerve entrapment, leading to perineal pain.
A bicycle seat that does not have a protruding nose is the most recommended because it reduces pressure on the groin area, reducing the risk of health complications.
Air pollution exposure
Cycling exposes the cyclist to excessive air pollution agents, especially when riding on a busy road. However, some people argue that vehicle uses are exposed to more pollution because the car's interior has little air circulation. Cyclists are exposed to more pollution because they are exposed to direct ventilation.
Cyclists will suffer from inhaling air pollution agents like carbon monoxide and lead released from motor vehicles. Furthermore, cyclists spend more time traveling the same distance as the vehicle; therefore, they are the most exposed.
Exposure to harsh weather elements
A cyclist exposes the whole body to the environment since bicycles do not have any kinds of covers. The weather can be harsh, especially to one's skin. When riding under the sun, you will suffer the risk of getting sunburns and heat rash. To avoid such complications, you need to wear a bicycle helmet that protects the face from harsh weather. Also, ensure that you put on warm enough clothing to protect yourself from the wind that can cause a cold.
7 best safety tips for cyclists
- Wear a bike helmet
Putting on a helmet helps protect your face, brain, and head in case of an accident. However, you need to ensure that the helmet fits well. Helmets have saved many people's lives; therefore, they are among the essential cycling safety equipment you should never leave behind, even when riding for short distances.
The United States has safety rules that describe a functional helmet. For instance, the United States describes an effective helmet as one that has a sticker that confirms it meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.
Wear a helmet anytime you are on your bike. And you should ensure that the helmet is certified and fits well.
★ Always follow these guidelines when using a helmet.
★ Always put on your helmet the correct way that will offer maximum protection. The helmet needs to cover the forehead then fasten its straps.
★ Avoid wearing a hat under the helmet.
★ Take good care of your helmet to keep it in good condition. A damaged helmet cannot offer maximum protection.
★ Add stickers to your helmet to increase your visibility.
★ If you get an accident that has a lot of impact on your helmet, ensure that you replace it. .
- Use the right bike
A bike with the right size will enhance your safety on the road. The following is how you ensure that the bike you have is the right size for you:
★ Your feet should be flat on the ground after you have straddled.
★ Ensure that there is some space between you and the top bar.
★ Ensure that handlebars, wheels, and seats are tightly fitted.
★ Ensure to check the condition of your chain and oil it when necessary.
★ Ensure that your brakes are working well and they break smoothly
★ Ensure that your tires are well inflated and they have the proper amount of pressure.
- Wear the proper cycling safety gear
Visibility and comfort are equal to safety for cyclists. Here is what you need to know about your cycling gear.
★ Make sure that you wear bright attire and a reflector when riding your bike. Bright and reflective clothes help other road users to see you and plan their move from a distance. People will run into you if they cannot see you from a safe distance.
★ Ensure that your dress code does not have loose ends that would get detangled in the bicycle chain. Ensure that your shoelaces are well secured.
★ Put on bicycle gloves that will ensure you have a firm grip on your handlebars.
★ Add a bright and reflective bicycle safety flag to increase visibility.
★ Wear closed shoes when riding your bike. The shoes should have a nice sole that grips the pedals. Avoid using a bike with bare feet.
★ Avoid using headphones while riding because it will prevent you from hearing any warning sounds around you, like car horns.
- Mind where you are riding your bike
Here are some safety precautions regarding where you should ride your bike.
★ Only ride a bike where you are allowed to
★ Children below the age of 9 should always ride their bicycles on the sidewalk or the bicycle roadway and never cycle on the streets.
★ Avoid riding in a busy place where other things can get into your way unexpectedly. When riding in a busy place, be keen and ride at a slow speed.
★ Learners and children under the age of 10 should always ride during the day, especially when riding for fun.
★ You should always be keen on the road and look out for vehicles, pedestrians, and other road users. Be keen even when riding on the bicycle path. Since you are sharing the road with other road users, consider installing a bicycle safety camera, to capture any hit and run scenarios, especially on the rear.
- Master the road rules and signs
If you plan to ride in the streets, you need to read a cycling safety tutorial to familiarize yourself with cycling rules and regulations. You should also ensure that you follow these rules:
★ Always hold your handlebar
★ Ensure that you stop and check the traffic from all sides before changing your cycling path or alley.
★ Cross the streets at the intersections when you are sure that other drivers can spot you.
★ You should walk your bike in some sections, like on the crosswalk.
★ Always obey the traffic signals. Stop when the signs indicate the red light. Failing to stop puts your life in danger, and it also endangers the safety of other road users.
★ If possible, stick to using the bike lanes.
★ Avoid riding next to parked cars. The occupants can open the doors unexpectedly.
★ Always ride your bike on the right-hand side of the road.
★ Ride in the same direction as the rest of the traffic. Never ride against the traffic.
★ When riding with friends, you should ride in a single file.
★ When overtaking other road users, always pass them on their left side
While motorists use brake lights and indicating lights, cyclists use hand signals to show their next move. Always ensure that you look behind you before you change lanes. Use your left arm to indicate a left turn and your right arm to indicate a right turn.
Like any other road users, you should never use your bike when you are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Drags and alcohol impair your judgment, and it also affects your ability to balance on the road. Always ensure that if you are drunk, you have someone that you can call for help.
Like other road users, Bicycle users need to be keen on the road to avoid injuries and loss of life. While a bicycle is not a complex machine like vehicles and trucks, it holds a significant risk. Furthermore, a bicycle is not a toy; therefore, you should ensure that you take the necessary precautions to care for yourself and other road users.
A careless cyclist can cause an accident even when it will not involve them. Cyclists should always be keen when riding, ensure they are visible, follow the road rules, wear the right gear, and maintain their bicycles.