Portland and southwest Washington are home to many bicycling enthusiasts- from those who bike for exercise and recreation along our fantastic trails, to those who use their wheels as their means of regular transportation. Portland has even been repeatedly named as one of the most bike-friendly cities! In an effort to keep bike lovers of all varieties safe and support the American Academy of Orthopaedic’s recent public service campaign, our team provides some injury prevention pointers below. Protect yourself from orthopedic injuries and head injuries by making bike safety a priority.
Protect Your Head
First and foremost, you should always wear a properly fitting helmet. While a wearing a helmet cannot completely prevent a head injury, it does reduce your risk of head and brain injuries by 85 percent. Some quick tips on bicycle helmet safety:
- Be sure to find a helmet that is approved by the American National Standards Institute.
- Measure your head before you go shopping for a helmet.
- Your helmet should never keep you from maintaining a clear line of sight.
- Always wear a helmet with a chin strap and buckle.
Find the Right Fit
Just as you should wear a helmet that fits, you should ride a bike that fits. A good general rule of thumb is to make sure you are able to stand over the frame with your feet flat against the ground. A bicycle shop can help you determine the the right bike and adjustments for you based on your height, riding frequency and style, and overall size. When fitting your bike, a professional will consider the bike frame size, handlebar distance, and seat height and shape. Take a look at these bike fit tips for healthy cycling.
Be Alert, Abide Traffic Laws, and Stay Cautious
Be cautiously aware of your surroundings any time you ride. That means keeping an eye out for pedestrians, other riders and cars, obstructed paths and weather conditions. As a cyclist, be wary of putting yourself in a position in which automobile drivers cannot see you, and be especially careful at intersections. You should always abide by traffic lights, signs, and other rules as you ride. Ride in bike lanes as much as possible, use turn signals, avoid heavy car traffic areas, and do your best to choose safe routes with ample space for you to ride. Nix distracted riding habits such as texting, listening to loud music, eating, talking on the phone, or other electronics usage.
Dress for Success
Proper footwear is key- your shoes should be securely fastened to your feet, laces should be tied and an appropriate length as to avoid getting stuck in a gear or pedal, and provide adequate support for the style of riding you are doing. Do not wear flip flops or loose sandals and clothing.
Practice Night Riding Safety
Going for a ride after dark? Place rear reflectors on your bike and helmet, make sure your headlight/tail light are working and wear bright clothing.
Start Slow and Listen to Your Body
If you’re just getting into the swing of bicycling, know that it can often require a significant amount of endurance. Depending on your current health, you may want to consult a physician before taking up the activity, whether you are biking for recreation or exercise. Should you encounter and pain or strain on your muscles and joints while riding, try shifting your seating position, adjusting your bike fit, slowing your pace, or rest. Learn about the difference between soreness and pain here.
Additional Bike Safety Resources: