Riding a bike on a regular basis has proven health benefits. It’s cardiovascular exercise which done consistently can help to lower blood pressure, risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers. In addition, cycling tones all the major muscles in your lower body and burns calories which can help to control or lose weight. Current recommendations from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest all healthy adults should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous type physical activity every week. Biking is a great way to satisfy this requirement, but everyone should be aware of the following safety issues prior to hitting the road.
Ensure your brain health by never riding without a helmet. Many people claim that helmets are uncomfortable or cumbersome. They’re an absolute must in basic bike safety. There is a saying among veteran riders when we see someone without a helmet, “there must not be much there worth protecting in the first place.” The fit should be snug but comfortable without wobbling all over your head. Helmets are good for three to five years and you should mount a light on top of yours when riding at night. Helmets are designed to sustain only one blow, so if you’re in an accident and your helmet absorbs any type of impact, replace it.
An often overlooked but very important part of any cyclist’s ensemble is eye protection. Sunglasses are not just for vanity on the bike. A good pair of sunglasses will minimize sun glare and keep dirt, debris and bugs out of your eyes. For optimal protection, try a pair of sport wraparound lenses with 100% UVA and UVB protection.
Every city has different laws pertaining to cyclists, but the following are true for New York City Riders:
-Just like every car is required to have a horn, every bike must have a bell
-Cyclists must obey basic traffic laws and stop at red lights and stop signs
-Stay off the sidewalks or risk getting a ticket
-Use a white front light and red tail light at night
-Ride in the direction of traffic
For rules within the District of Columbia, go to the bicycle safety website.
The following are my own personal safety laws which I have developed from my own experience on the road:
-Never look down, ALWAYS keep your eyes up and forward
-Do not touch, answer or look at your phone or bike computer while moving
-Assume you’re invisible and nobody can see you. Anticipate the unexpected like cars opening side doors and taxis running yellow lights
-Wear bright colors and reflective gear for maximum exposure on the road
Like a car, your bicycle needs to be attended to on a regular basis. According to Chris Ballard, cycling specialist at New York’s Metro Bicycles, “your ride should have a tune-up every 6 months. It’s important to stay on top of parts and mechanics before they become an issue.” Brake pads, chain-wear and tires should all be checked by your local bike shop for wear and tear. Pumping up your tires with air at least once a week will help them last longer and prevent flats.
Chris discourages baskets from hanging off the front because they can be dangerous and affect steering. Instead, he recommends a bike rack or panniers which are bags used for storage that hang off the sides. If you plan to ride regularly, it’s a good idea to learn the fundamentals of basic bike mechanics. This time of year many bike stores offer free clinics on changing flats and other mechanical issues. Check with your local shop to see what’s available near you.