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Safety tips for bicycle riders

Cheerful family riding bicycles.

Cycling for transportation is a great step forward. You will keep yourself active and fit while reducing your carbon footprint. Bike rides are fun and exciting, but safety is of the utmost importance for the bike-loving community. Cycling, especially in major cities, can prove dangerous, or even fatal, if safety isn't taken seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every year over 500,000 cyclists receive treatment in the emergency room and over 700 die. With the prevalence of bicycle-related injuries, it's important for cyclists to take proper precautionary measures and observe the rules of the road. Here are a few safety tips so you can enjoy the benefits and joys of riding your bike throughout the year.

Wear a helmet
Wearing a helmet is one of the easiest ways to increase your cycling safety. If you are thrown from your bike, and your head crashes onto the ground or an automobile, your head will absorb the impact. If, however, you wear a helmet, this protective barrier will take some of the force.

Know the traffic rules for your state
Every state has its own cycling laws. You should familiarize yourself with the cycling rules and regulations of your home state and others in which you might ride. In many states, bicycles are considered vehicles and benefit from the rights that this designation offers. Cyclists are also subject to many of the same restrictions as motor vehicles. When taking your bike into the street, you assume more responsibility.

Stay off sidewalks
Although customs change from state to state, it is generally illegal to ride on sidewalks. Regardless of the legal matters, you should avoid this activity because it is unsafe. You may hit pedestrians, mailboxes or something else unexpectedly.

Ride predictably
Save stunts and tricks for your off-road escapades. While riding alongside automobiles you should ride predictably. You shouldn't make any erratic movements, and you should make your intentions known, as well as possible. If you weave in and out of cars perpetually disappearing and emerging someone might miscalculate your next move. Also, keep brakes in first-rate condition. If your brakes aren't in good condition, they could fail you and disrupt your attempt to ride safely.

Ride with traffic
You should always ride with traffic. Since you can travel fast on a bike, you will sometimes move just as quickly as some cars on the road. Other times you may bypass them, owing to traffic congestion. Join traffic when it is appropriate and safer, namely when you travel at the same distance as motor vehicles. If two vehicles (your bike and a car) collide at top speeds, this could turn tragic.

Avoid potholes and loose gravel
Mind your surroundings. Make sure you don't ride over wide subway grates, sewer drains, potholes, loose gravel and so on. Your tire could burst, get stuck and toss you from your bike. Always keep an eye on what you are passing over.

Wear bright clothing
If you must ride at night, you should wear reflectors. During the day, you should wear bright colors, too. It's far more difficult for a bright red or orange t-shirt to blend into the scenery. You want the motorists to see you for safety's sake. Don't make it difficult for them.