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What Are the Best Ways to Stay Safe When Cycling?

Cycling has been a popular activity both for leisure and transportation. More than it being an enjoyable sport, it also improves cardiovascular fitness, strengthens bones, and improves posture. But if we don’t follow the right safety measures, cycling can lead to accidents and injury.

So what are the best ways to stay safe when cycling? One of the most recommended safety precautions is wearing the right attire and installing the right equipment. These include a helmet and bike reflectors. Be sure to also follow proper cycling etiquette such as following the direction of traffic and using hand signals, among others.

What Are the Measures I Should Take to Stay Safe When Cycling?

Cycling is undeniably a fun and effective workout, but we should never forget safety procedures and precautions.

  1. Wear the right attire and have the right equipment

Proper sports attire isn’t just there to make you look aesthetically pleasing as you do the sport. Proper clothing will help you enhance your performance, prevent injury, and keep you safe.

Some cyclists wear cycling attire from head to toe with spandex clothing as cycling shorts can give additional padding. The material can reduce chafing and give you a feeling of coolness during the ride. On the other hand, if you’re just going on a recreational bike ride, everyday clothing is fine as long as you wear the necessary safety equipment.

Cycling safety equipment include the following:

  • Helmet
  • Padding
  • Gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Proper shoes
  • Bike headlights, reflectors, and flashers

When needed, also wear sunglasses and sunscreen so you’ll be protected from the sun’s rays.

Wearing a helmet would be one of the most important ones of all. Research shows that doing so can reduce the risk of a serious injury by 70%. Head injuries are said to be the leading cause of fatal bike accidents.

Reflective materials can also make the ride significantly safer. One leading cause of bike accidents is limited visibility since a driver can’t see you (especially at intersections where your paths could cross). Reflectors on your bike are a big help. We also recommend wearing bright or reflective clothing.

  1. Check your equipment before the ride

Bicycle equipment malfunctions can lead to crashes. Before you start the ride, be sure you’ve checked your bike, helmet, and gear. Also, make sure that your tires have been properly inflated, your reflectors and lights are working, and your chains and gears don’t have defects or issues.

  1. Have a safety kit prepared

It’s easy to think that emergencies aren’t likely to happen, but it’s best to always bring a safety kit with you while riding.

A safety kit would ideally include:

  • Spare inner tube
  • Tire irons
  • CO2 cartridge inflation device
  • Separate frame pump
  • Inner tube patch kit

In addition to the kit, communicate your route, departure time, and expected end time to a trusted friend or family member. Always have a form of identification and some money for sudden expenses.

  1. Choose the right ride

Having the right bike is just as important as wearing the right clothes. Your bike should leave 1 to 2 inches of clearance between your crotch and the tube that connects the handlebars to the seat. This clearance happens when you stand flat-footed on the ground. You should also consider the height of the handlebar, tire pressure, and the angle of the seat.

When you already have the bike that’s best for you, always check it to make sure it’s up to speed with your changing needs. Maintain its condition and be sure you know how to change a flat tire before heading out.

  1. Warm up before the ride and do some stretches after

This applies to any physical activity: Before you start, warm up and stretch. This will help prevent athletic injuries. After the ride, stretch and cool down. This will help you avoid cramps and aid in recovery.

  1. Be aware of proper cycling etiquette and practice it

Just like in driving a car, cycling has basic etiquette as well. These include:

  • Observing traffic laws such as traffic lights, speed limits, and stop signs
  • Using hand signals
  • Sharing the road with cars and sharing the paths with other cyclists
  • Following the direction of traffic
  • Announcing your intent to pass other cyclists (saying “on your left”)
  1. Be aware of your surroundings

Be alert and attentive to riding conditions. Always be sure that you can see and hear the road in front of you. This also means not listening to or playing music during the ride. It goes without saying that you should keep your phone and other electronics hidden as well. 

  1. Keep your hands on the bike

Sure, doing the “no hands” trick may be impressive to some, but please don’t do it when cycling, especially when you’re on the road with other vehicles. Not having your hands on the handlebars will take you longer to respond to circumstances such as a pedestrian in your path.

  1. Use dedicated bike lanes and stay off the sidewalks

Use a bike lane whenever you see one to keep yourself and others safe. In addition, remember that sidewalks belong to pedestrians, so stay off sidewalks if you can. You might crash into a pedestrian or lose control especially when the sidewalks are crowded. The pavement on the sidewalk is also likely to be uneven, so you might hit a crack or bump and end up flying.

Lastly, you might take a car driver by surprise and get hit when you use the sidewalk. This is because they don’t expect to see a cyclist enter the road from a sidewalk.

  1.   Ride a bike as if you’re actually driving a car

When riding a bike, act like you’re driving a car. This means mimicking the behaviors of larger vehicles: Don’t weave in and out of traffic, don’t ignore traffic signals, and don’t cut across multiple lanes at once.

What Are the Common Causes of Cycling Accidents?

Understanding the common causes of accidents should go hand-in-hand with understanding the safety measures of cycling. The most common causes of bicycle accidents include:

  1. Vehicle doors that open in front of an approaching cyclist

Vehicle drivers or passengers tend to open the vehicle door without checking if a cyclist is coming from behind. Cyclists barely have time to react, and even when they do, the only options they have are swerving into lanes with other vehicles or crashing onto the door.

  1. Vehicles that pull out of a junction

When a vehicle pulls out of a junction, cyclists could get hit. An example of this is when a vehicle goes from a smaller road onto a larger one. When this happens, the vehicle ends up in front of the cyclist.

  1. Reckless driving

Another major cause of cycling accidents is drivers who speed and drive recklessly. The damage is more pronounced for the cyclist because of the lack of physical protection on bicycles apart from the safety gear that the cyclist is wearing.

More than this, speeding can increase the driver’s stopping time while limiting the amount of time they have to make decisions.

  1. Distracted driving

This applies to both riders on bicycles and larger vehicles. When drivers pay attention to their phones rather than the road, they’re very much likely to cause dangerous collisions.

  1. Impaired driving and driver fatigue

Drivers who decide to drink or get high then get behind the wheel are a serious danger to everyone. Alcohol and drug impairment significantly decreases one’s ability to make sensible driving decisions, and a lot of collisions that involve cyclists are the result of impaired driving.

Driver fatigue is another common cause of cycling accidents. Those who are out early, are out late, or try to go home after a tiring day can be at risk for collisions.

  1. Dangerous decisions

Some of the common dangerous decisions that drivers make include:

  • Making unsafe lane changes — Cycling accidents that involve unsafe lane changes normally result from drivers who merge into cyclists’ lanes without checking if the lane is clear.
  • Turning without looking — When drivers turn without checking for bicyclists, especially at intersections, they’re likely to cause a collision.
  • Weaving through traffic — If drivers weave through traffic, they’re less likely to see cyclists who share the road.
  • Failing to yield — There are several locations wherein vehicle drivers are obligated to yield to oncoming traffic (including bicycle traffic).
  • Running a stop sign or red light — Running a traffic sign is already dangerous to begin with, but the risks are increased when drivers don’t look for cyclists having the right of way.

If you’ve been seriously injured in a bicycle accident that involves a larger vehicle, speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

What Injuries Can I Get From Cycling and How Do I Treat Them?

Like with any sport, cycling can sometimes lead to accidents and injuries. Below are some of the injuries you can get from cycling:

  1. Back and neck pain

You may feel an ache in your neck that radiates to the middle part of your back. If you have back and neck pain, you may also find it difficult to rotate and bend your head. One way to treat this is to do gentle neck stretches to loosen your neck. You can also see an osteopath who can help with treatment.

  1. Forearm pain

This will likely be felt by a downhill or bike park rider. Forearm pain is intense pain in the forearm that hits at the end of a lap, making it difficult to ungrip your hands. To treat this, try altering the rotation on your brake lever angle or handlebars. Try doing some post-ride stretching as well.

  1. Knee pain

You may feel pain around your kneecap and stiffness when first getting up from sitting. To treat this, try getting into a routine of knee and hip stretches to reduce tension over your knee cap or patella..

  1. Saddle sore

If you have a saddle sore, you may notice soreness between the contact area of your buttocks and your bike’s saddle. Double-check the height and angle of your saddle and invest in some chamois cream and new shorts to reduce the build-up of friction on your skin.

  1. Hip pain

You may feel some aching at the front and outer side of the hip that travels down the thigh toward the knee cap. Do some stretches to make your hip muscles more flexible.

For cycling and other sports injuries, we recommend seeing a doctor for an effective and proper treatment.

Experience Effective Treatment of Cycling Injuries With AmeriCare Physical Therapy

It’s always a good idea to consult a professional when it comes to our health. AmeriCare Physical Therapy guarantees quality treatment of cycling and other sports injuries. Our physical therapies aim to help you prevent or recover from a sports injury and learn to use assistive devices when needed.

AmeriCare Physical Therapy consists of competent and experienced physical and occupational therapists who can provide you with the highest quality of care. Give us a call or head to the AmeriCare PT website to book an appointment.

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