cyclingRiding bicycles has become an increasingly popular form of exercise and many families are also finding it as a great way to spend time together. Whether it is a quick trip around the block or an all day excursion, the first thing on every parent’s mind should be safety when it comes to bicycle rides. Accidents can happen at any moment, but there are a number of simple preventative steps that minimize the chances of a serious injury.

Here is a closer look at some of the benefits of family biking and a few tips that should be considered to stay safe.

The Benefits of Riding Bikes
Obesity has become a serious issue for people of all ages, and riding a bike is not just about losing weight.

  • The health benefits of outdoor activities go far beyond weight loss, and this includes the effects of exercise on the brain.
  • During exercise and immediately after a workout, the brain begins to release endorphins, also called happy hormones that make you feel relaxed and energized while easing out physical and mental stress.
  • With just 30 minutes of exercise per day, the body also effectively regulates everything from blood pressure to one’s metabolism that aids digestion.

Bicycle Maintenance
The first step in bicycle safety is prepping the bicycle itself.

  • Much like vehicle maintenance, keeping a bike in perfect running condition helps avoid the most common accidents.
  • If a bike is new or has been sitting unused for a long period of time, it should be tuned, the tire pressure checked, and the brakes tested.
  • For bicycles with gears, it is also important to check the bicycle chain and the gears, each of which should be greased with lube specifically made for bike chains.

Before heading out onto the main street, it is always a good idea to ride the bicycle in a safe area for a few days, especially if it is new or has not been used in a while.

  • Minor issues such as the chain on the wrong gear or a misalignment can cause a serious accident when out on the main roads.

Many times, this minor maintenance can be handled at home with only a handful of basic tools.

Proper Gear
The next step is to take a look at the proper gear.

  • Everyone in the family should stay hydrated throughout the day and it is a great idea to bring along more water bottles, especially for long rides or during the summer.
  • Regardless of one’s age, it is essential to wear a helmet at all times. The probability of suffering a serious head injury is more if you are not wearing a well fitted helmet.
  • For those that are going on a ride during the night, it is a good idea to wear bright clothing and have a bike light on at all times.
  • For kids that are learning to ride, a full set of safety gear including knee and elbow pads could also prevent serious injuries.

Other items that are often forgotten include:

  • A cell phone for emergencies
  • A helmet
  • Flashlight
  • A small tool set

On The Road
The actual laws regarding bicycle riding change between states and municipalities, but there are a few basic safety rules that apply everywhere.

  • Traffic rules are meant to be followed by cyclists as well. So always ride bicycles along the flow of traffic and not against it.
  • If there is a bicycle path or lane, they should always be used and all other vehicle laws apply to cyclists.
  • For children that are not yet old enough to ride on the street, all driveways and intersections should be double checked and caution should be used around any parked cars.

Bicycles are a favorite with people of all ages. It helps you to stay fit, serves as a great outdoor activity and is easy to own and maintain. However, you should never underestimate the seriousness of injuries and accidents involving cyclists and follow all safety measures discussed above.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michelle Holincheck, FNP