The right protective equipment and respect for the rules can help keep a bicycle accident from spoiling much more than your ride.
In 2015, emergency rooms across the U.S. treated more bicycle injuries — approximately 488,000 — than injuries from all but one other sport, basketball, according to the National Safety Council.
Low rates of helmet use may be to blame, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — fewer than half of riders wear one. Riders who don’t wear helmets typically experience the most serious injuries, such as damage to the brain or spinal cord.
Bicycle safety starts at home and continues on the ride. Here’s how to protect yourself.
Before You Go
- Do your homework. “Plan your route before you leave home so you won’t encounter any surprises,” said Kathy Panther, director of the brain injury program and inpatient therapy at Frazier Rehab Institute, part of KentuckyOne Health, and a cycling lover. “If possible, ride with a group, which is safer because you are more visible.”
- Gear up. Every rider needs a fitted helmet (see “4 Steps to Helmet Harmony”), white headlight and red rear reflectors.
- Keep your hands free. Outfit your bike with a rack, basket or handlebar bags — or wear a bike shirt with multiple pockets — so you can devote your hands to steering.
On the Road
- Don’t ride distracted. Put your phone away and leave the earbuds at home.
- Go with the flow. Travel the same direction as car traffic, which carries less risk of injury.
If you have recently suffered a brain injury from a bike accident or while playing a sport, Frazier Rehab Institute has a concussion helpline open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Just call 502.420.0125 to speak with an expert.
4 Steps to Helmet Harmony
- Check the label. Choose a helmet certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Focus on fit. The helmet should cradle your head snugly with no forward or backward tilt or side-to-side movement. Above all, it should protect your forehead — the most likely point of injury in a crash.
- Adjust appropriately. Make sure the side straps form a “V” over the ears, and pull the chinstrap until it fits snugly.
- Know when to let go. If the helmet takes a hit in a crash, replace it.
This story originally appeared in the 2017 Fall edition of One Health Magazine. Sign up for your free subscription.