Bicycle Safety Checklist
Bicycle rides are a wonderful way for both children and adults to enjoy the fresh air and get an excellent workout. These rides can include marathons, races, and leisurely outings with the family. To keep everyone safe, though, all cyclists should perform a few important safety checks – both for the bike and for the equipment – before setting out. Whether your child wants to ride around with their friends this summer or you’re planning to bike to work, it truly pays to be safe. If you get in an accident, the medical bills alone could bury your family in debt.
First and foremost, purchase the right safety attire for anyone riding a bicycle in your household. This includes a helmet, bright clothing, and kneepads for children who may take a tumble once or twice.
The helmet is the most important safety attire for riding a bike. In fact, the majority of states in the country currently have laws in place requiring children to wear a helmet while riding their bicycle. If a child gets in an accident without a helmet on, they risk severe head injuries or even the death. To ensure the utmost safety, purchase a helmet with the proper approval sticker by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This indicates that it has met their standards and is safe for daily use. Furthermore, select a helmet that properly fits. A too-loose or too-tight helmet can actually cause injury, instead of preventing it. The helmet should sit level on the head without tipping back or twisting to the side.
Many cyclists forget to wear the proper clothing. First of all, if you intend to ride at night, or even in dim light, it’s important to wear bright-colored clothing. You could even invest in reflective gear. In any case, you should certainly avoid wearing dark colors – such as navy blue or black – while riding. You want car drivers to see you. Secondly, be sure not to wear long or loose clothing. These articles of clothing may hang too low and wrap themselves in the bike’s chain or tires. Lastly, closed toed, tightly laced shoes are essential to a safe bike ride.
Before each ride, it’s important to check over the bike itself. Over time, like any object, a bike may experience the usual wear and tear. Keep an eye out for this, especially if you often go on long rides. You’ll want to ensure that the brakes work, the chain hasn’t snapped, and the tires are inflated fully.
Before you hop on your bike, check the following:
- Brakes – Do they work properly? Are they secure? Do they stop the bike promptly and smoothly?
- Wheels – Do the wheels spin properly? Are they centered and secure on the frame? Do they wobble?
- Tires – Do you notice any bulges or cuts? Are the tires firm? How is the tread?
- Spokes – Are the spokes in the correct place? Are there any breaks?
- Chain – Is the chain in good condition? Has it been lubricated? Is it clean? Does it fit snugly and have tension?
- Pedals – Are the pedals secure in their place? Do they turn easily, without shaking?
- Seat – Is the seat properly adjusted? Is it secure? Is it parallel to the ground?
- Frame – Is the frame of the bike clean? Is it strong? Are the nuts, bolts, and fasteners properly tightened?
- Lights – Are the lights and reflectors clean? Are they firmly attached?
Proper Bicycle Maintenance
While you go through this checklist, perform any necessary maintenance at the same time. If you stay on top of repairs and maintenance, your bicycle should run smoothly for the foreseeable future. Some repairs will, of course, require a professional service provider. However, you can do a bit of maintenance work on your own. A thorough inspection should unearth any major mechanical problems in your bicycle.
First off, examine the wheels and rims as part of your pre-ride checklist. If you notice a problem with the alignment, correct this before riding. The spokes should also be properly aligned. You can check this by grabbing them in pairs and squeezing, working your way around the entire wheel. If you notice any broken spokes, replace them immediately.
The brakes, which are arguably the most important aspect of any bicycle, should be at the top of your maintenance checklist. To test them, apply the front brake and push forward on the handlebars. The brake lever should work smoothly and consistently. The same goes for the rear brake — simply repeat the testing process. If the brakes show any drag, you have a faulty or dirty cable. If any part of the brakes does not function properly, have an experienced bicycle mechanic repair the problem. Your bicycle brakes do the most important work in maintaining your safety.
We’ve already mentioned how important the proper safety equipment – including helmets and bright, reflective clothing – are for children, so we won’t reiterate that here. Instead, we’ll expand on some other safety concerns.
Consider implementing the buddy system for kid’s bike rides. Not only can a partner watch for any obstructions or wrongdoings, but they can also make a rider feel more comfortable and safe. Kids can watch out for each other. If children do bike alone, have them tell someone their route, schedule, and intended destination.
Rules of the Road
When riding in traffic, be sure to obey all traffic laws, signs, signals, and road markings. It’s important to note any changing road conditions, such as wet pavement due to rain, or ice patches from a previous night’s snowfall. Furthermore, to avoid injury, ride with just a single person per bike. Try not to ride after dark, and avoid doing any tricks or stunts on the road. Lastly, always yield to vehicles if there’s any question of right-of-way. While bicycles have the same rights as motor vehicles, cars and trucks do not always adhere to such rules. Cyclists are simply more vulnerable to injury than other vehicle drivers.
When at an intersection, it’s important to look each way before making a turn. Come to a complete stop, then search each direction for oncoming traffic – especially if you’re entering or leaving a driveway, alley, or parking lot.
We have already established that children should tell someone their destination and route before setting out on a ride. Building off of this, all cyclists should craft a careful travel plan ahead of time. Mark down the route you intend to take, and estimate the timing of the entire trip, factoring in traffic and hazardous conditions where needed.
Furthermore, it’s important to plan in a few rest stops. If you intend to bike for six hours a day, plan in hourly rest stops to catch your breath and recuperate. If you’re tired, you will be less likely to pay attention to the road and more likely to wind up in an accident.
If you have any further questions regarding bicycle safety, or if you were involved in a bike-related accident, contact McGilberry & Shirer by calling 800-887-6188. We’re happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have. If you need quality legal representation, we’d be happy to sit down and examine your case with you.