One of the great joys of summer for both kids and adults alike is bike riding. We are lucky to not only live in a community is not only easy to bike, but we also have the North Coast Inland Trail and the Reservoir. Bike riding is a great way to stay active and a fun summer activity the whole family can enjoy.
Although bike riding is a great summer activity, it can also result in injuries ranging from minor scrapes and bruises to more serious broken bones or head injuries. In fact, according to a study conducted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, 608 children age 5-17 are treated in U.S. emergency rooms per day on average. This is equal to 25 children every hour.
Here are some other things found by this study conducted between January 2006 and December 2015:
- 46% of the injuries were in children age 10-14.
- 72% were boys.
- The upper extremities were the most commonly injured area followed by lower extremities, face, and head and neck.
- The most common injury types were bruises, scrapes, and cuts.
- 48% of injuries occurred in the street.
- 37% of injuries occurred at home.
Before you set off on your first bike voyage of the year, review these safety tips and check your family’s bikes to make sure everything fits properly and is in working order this summer so you can have an injury-free summer.
The first step in riding safe is making sure your bike is safe. Here are the things to look for:
- Ride a bike that is the right size for you. There should be 1 to 3 inches between you and the top bar of your bicycle when you stand straddling it with both feet flat on the ground. When it’s too big, it is harder to control. Even a bike that’s too small can be difficult to ride safely so make sure your child’s bike still fits if they’ve grown since last year.
- Check your brakes. You don’t want to get halfway through your ride and be coasting down a hill before you realize your breaks aren’t properly working.
- Check and oil your chain regularly.
- Check your handlebars, seat, and wheels to make sure they’re all tight.
- If you need to take anything with you, make sure you use a backpack or a bag strapped to the back of the bike. If you try to carry the items or use other types of bags, it can throw you off balance, interfere with the wheels, and generally make it difficult to control the bike.
- Check your tire pressure. If your bike has been sitting in the garage all winter, it will likely need some air. Not only is proper tire pressure safer, it also makes the bike much easier to ride.
Now that you’ve checked the bikes and fixed anything that may have needed a tune up, it’s important to refresh your memory on how to safely ride around town.
- Plan your route so that you avoid traffic as much as possible. If you’re in a group, make sure everyone knows the route to avoid running into each other at turns.
- Keep both hands on the handlebars. It’s easy to lose control riding with one hand or even no hands.
- Only allow one rider per seat.
- Don’t use your phone while riding and avoid wearing headphones. Listening to music with headphones can prevent you from hearing important sounds such as oncoming traffic or a car blowing their horn.
- Always stop and check for traffic. Even if you check as you approach the intersection, a car might not see you and turn suddenly. Pay close attention to driveways as well as cars backing out may not think to check the sidewalks.
- Cross at intersections and follow traffic signals. It’s much easier for drivers to see you that way. Although you may be watching for cars, drivers are not always watching for cyclists.
- If you’re riding in the street, ride with the flow of traffic not against it.
- Use bike lanes whenever possible.
- Don’t ride too close to parked cars as the doors can open suddenly.
- If you’re riding with a group of people, ride single-file.
- When riding in the street, obey all traffic signals just like you would in a car—stop at red lights and stop signs.
- Use your left arm for all signals. For a left turn, hold your arm straight out (after checking behind you to make sure nothing is coming). To stop, point your arm down so it makes an upside down “L.” And for a right turn, point your arm up so it makes an “L.”
Wearing the right gear is the final step in having a safe, successful bike ride. This is important for the whole family and remember, when the adults wear the proper gear, the kids are more inclined to do the same.
- Wear proper shoes. Tennis shoes are the best footwear to help you properly grip the pedals. But, make sure your laces are tied so they won’t get caught in the chain.
- Loose pant legs can also get caught in the chain so check to make sure they aren’t too baggy or roll them so they are out of the way.
- Bright clothes make it easier for drivers to see you especially at night and dawn/dusk. You can also add reflectors on your bike or jacket so that it will reflect street lights and headlights.
- Wear a properly fitted bike helmet every time your ride. The helmet should cover your forehead and shouldn’t slide back and forth. The straps should always be fastened. Don’t throw the helmet around and if you hit your head with it on, get a new one. A damaged helmet won’t protect you as well.
Since 1995, the Fisher-Titus Helmets for Kids program has provided and fitted helmets for children 18 years and younger. This year, MetroHealth—our Trauma Program partner—has partnered with us to distribute helmets at events throughout Huron County. Check www.fishertitus.org and our Facebook page for times and dates of helmet events.
Have fun and stay safe as you bike Norwalk this summer!
Dr. Wendy Millis is a pediatrician with New Beginnings Pediatrics. Helmets for Kids will be at various community events throughout the summer. For more information, visit www.fishertitus.org/upcoming-events or www.facebook.com/fishertitushealth.