National Bicycle Safety Month observed in May
May is National Bicycle Safety Month. As we head into summer with children out of school and families taking vacation, May is a perfect opportunity to brush up on safe riding for the whole family.
In recent years, bicycling for recreation and transportation has been dramatically increasing in popularity. About four million Americans now pedal along the country’s streets and highways. And why not? Bicycling is the perfect way exercise, offers great scenery and is just about as green as you can get — and what better way to fight back at the high prices at the gas pumps.
But before you hop on your bike in hopes of becoming the next Lance Armstrong, all bike riders should know how to ride safely. The number of cyclists visiting emergency rooms each year is staggering — from adults to young children. In fact, about half a million children alone are seriously injured in bicycle-related accidents in the Unites States.
Summer time is the most dangerous season for children since they are out of school and have more free time. The majority of injuries are sustained while swimming, biking, skating or riding in cars.
Head injuries account for 62 percent of bicycle-related deaths, for 33 percent of bicycle-related emergency department visits and for 67 percent of bicycle-related hospital admissions.
The best advice: Wear a helmet
“Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes. The evidence is clear: a helmet is the single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury from bike crashes,” Kerri Taimanglo, executive director of CycleSafe.org, said. CycleSafe.org is a nonprofit organization based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina that provides bike safety programming and other outreach efforts across America. It promotes healthy and active lifestyles for bike riders of all ages and all ability levels through bicycle safety and education.
“Requiring children to wear a helmet every time is the best thing you can do to protect them from biking injuries, and it’s the law in many states.”
Taimanglo said that a properly fitted helmet should not rock back and forth or side to side. To encourage children to wear a helmet, she recommended allowing children to choose a stylish helmet that’s “cool.”
“Proper bike fit and maintenance also can help prevent injuries. A child’s feet should reach the ground while sitting in the bike seat,” Taimanglo said. “Make sure the reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly, and tires are secured and properly inflated.”
In addition, it is important to make sure all bike riders follow traffic laws and bicycle rules of the road:
• Always ride on the right side of the road, riding in the same direction as the traffic.
• Learn and obey all traffic laws.
• Use proper hand signals to let others know when you are stopping and turning.
• Look both ways before crossing the street with your bicycle. Be sure to walk rather than ride your bike across the street.
• Don’t ride between parked or moving cars.
• When riding around a curve, ride in single file, ride slowly and stay to the side of the road.
• Never ride out from a driveway or hillside.
Why is bicycle safety so important? Just look at these facts:
• There are 85 million bicycle riders in the United States.
• About 540,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries, and 27,000 have injuries serious enough to be hospitalized.
• 1 in 8 of the cyclists with reported injuries has a brain injury; Two-thirds of the deaths here are from traumatic brain injury.
• A very high percentage of cyclists’ brain injuries can be prevented by a helmet, estimated at anywhere from 45 to 88 percent.
• Direct costs of cyclists’ injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $81 million each year.
Celebrate National Bicycle Safety Month and make safe bike riding a must for you and your whole family.
Published in The Messenger 5.20.08