More than 500,000 Americans visit the emergency room annually due to a bicycle injury with children making up 59 percent of that number, government statistics show. And, each year, more than 670 people are killed while riding a bike. Yet, many Americans still don’t take bike safety seriously and aren’t aware of the steps they should take to prevent injury to themselves or others.Gearing Up• First and foremost, make sure every rider has a properly fitted helmet to protect against brain injury.• Make sure your bike is sized properly. Ideally there should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the top bar when you’re standing directly over the bike, for mountain bikes you want 3 to 4 inches between you and the bar. In addition make sure your seat is level and allows for a slight bend in the knees when you’re sitting on it. Your handle bar should be level with the seat.• Make sure your tires are properly inflated and test your brakes to make sure you’ll be able to stop reliably.• If you have a small child who is still learning how to ride, consider installing training wheels to give your child added riding security.Rules of the Road• Ride in the street about 2 to 3 feet from the curb.• Follow the flow of traffic and ride on the right side of the road.• Use hand signals to help drivers, pedestrians and other bikers anticipate which direction you intend to go.• Obey stoplights and signs; try to follow traffic patterns as if you were driving a car. Yield when merging into a larger street and always look before you turn or cross intersections.• Try and ride in a straight line without zigzagging.• If you’re facing oncoming traffic, make eye contact with drivers to ensure they are aware of your presence.• Keep your eyes and ears open for cars, other bikers and pedestrians.• Watch for parked cars. You don’t want to be caught off guard when some exits the car and opens the door right in front of you.Side-Walks vs. StreetsChildren under the age of 10 (or those who are still learning to control their bikes) should ride on the side-walk. Occasionally older children or adults will also choose to use the side-walk rather than ride in the street, but not all states allow bikes on side-walks so be sure to check your local laws first. If you’re permitted to ride on the side-walk it is still important to be alert so that you don’t inadvertently cause any biker/pedestrian injuries. • Alert pedestrians that you are close by saying “Excuse me” or “On the right/left” or use a bell.• If the side-walk crosses a drive-way or street, look both ways before crossing.Staying alert and remembering the rules of the road can help you enjoy the outdoors without requiring a visit to the emergency room.
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