Bike Safety 101

Many people are ditching their cars in favor of two-wheels. Why this huge increase in biking over the past decade?  Bicycling doesn’t just get you somewhere. It has a lot of benefits, everything from lowering your risk of heart disease, living longer, burning calories, delaying aging to helping the environment and even making you smarter!

Do I Need a Bike Helmet?

Yes! Adults are not required to wear helmets in any state, and young riders are only required to wear helmets in 21 states (see map), but many cities have local ordinances that require helmets. If your city or state does not have a bike helmet law, this does not mean that you should bike without a helmet; 9 out of 10 bicycle riders who die in a crash are not wearing helmets! Wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury by up to 88%. It’s important!

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How Do I Find the Right Bike Helmet?

  • Look for the CPSC Certified label on the box.
  • The helmet should sit flat on top the head and rest 1 or 2 finger-widths above the eyebrows. The forehead should be covered, and the straps should form a “V” below your child’s ear.
  • The helmet should be snug, but not tight. If your child is between sizes, pick the bigger one. Most helmets come with extra pads to help you get a good fit. The helmet should not move from side to side when your child shakes his head.
  • Replace any helmet that is damaged or that has been involved in a crash.

How Do I Ride Smart?

  • Ride with the flow of traffic, and stay to the right. Obey all traffic signs. Stop at red lights and stop signs. Police officers can issue bike riders tickets for not following road rules, just like they can for car drivers.
  • Walk the bicycle across busy streets and intersections.
  • Ride only if it is sunny and dry. Riding at dusk, when it is dark or when it is raining can be dangerous.
  • Children younger than 12 months old should not be passengers on bicycles. Their neck muscles may not be strong enough.
  • Children younger than 10 years should ride on a sidewalk or bicycle path instead of the street. Most young children are unable to make safe choices in traffic situations.
  • Be careful navigating around parked cars. Doors can swing open suddenly.
  • More safety information is available at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Center for Injury Research & Policy.

Where Can I Ride My Bike?

As cities are actively building and upgrading bike paths, biking is becoming more convenient and accessible. Websites like http://www.mapmyride.com/ allow bikers to find local bike paths, track workouts and create new routes.

So, what are you waiting for? Get riding!

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Emily Decker, MD
Dr. Emily is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Urgent Care and Primary Care Clinics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She has a strong interest in child advocacy, and serves as the medical director for CAP4Kids Columbus, a website that connects families with resources and opportunities in Columbus. Her energetic toddler twin girls keep her busy in her personal life, and her interests include traveling throughout Africa and Asia. She is an avid U.S. soccer fan as well and has been to the last four World Cups. Follow Dr. Emily on Twitter @CAP4Kids for local resources and opportunities for kids.

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