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House Calls: Summer near, take stock of bicycle safety

House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today’s column is written by Quenlyn Larson, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Sutter Coast Community Clinic.

Summer is almost here, the perfect time to get out and ride bikes!

Bike riding can be a fun and healthy sport, and a great way to exercise. However, it is important to remember that bikes are not toys but road vehicles. Be cool, be safe and follow basic safety tips and rules of the road when you ride your bike.

Make sure your bike is ready to ride and that all parts are secure and working properly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (nhtsa.dot.gov) recommends the following safety tips.

• Remember to wear a properly fitted bike helmet every time you ride. You want to protect your brain in case you fall off your bike and hit your head. Head injuries can be serious if you are not wearing a helmet.

• Adjust your bike to fit. While standing over your bike, there should be 1–2 inches between you and the tube (bar) if using a road bike and 3-4 inches if using a mountain bike. The seat should be level front to back and the height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar should be at the same level with the seat.

• Check your equipment. Make sure the tires are inflated properly and make sure the brakes work.

• See and be seen. No matter what the weather, make sure you can be seen by others. Wearing white clothing does not make you more visible. Instead, wear colors like neon, fluorescent or other bright colors when riding during the day or night. Also, wearing something that reflects lights such as reflective tape, or using flashing lights, can also make others see you better. Remember just be cause you can see other drivers does not mean they can see you.

• Control your bike. Always ride with at least one hand on the handle bar. Carry books and other items in your backpack or in a basket attached to the bike.

• Watch for and avoid road hazards. Look out for potholes, broken glass, debris on the road, and even dogs as these hazards can cause a crash.

• Avoid riding at night. It is much more dangerous to ride at night because it is harder for others to see you. Make sure your tires have reflectors and that your bike has reflectors on the front (white) and back (red).

• When riding always go with the traffic flow. Ride on the right in the same direction of traffic. Obey all traffic laws. The bike is a vehicle and you are the driver. Always stop at stop signs, traffic lights and follow signs and lane markings. Remember that when you are coming from a smaller roadway such as a driveway, sidewalk or bike path, always yield for traffic from a major road. 

• Be predictable to traffic. Ride in a straight line and signal your moves to drivers. Stay alert at all times using your ears and your eyes watching out for traffic and possible hazards. Look before turning, look behind you before your turn, and signal to traffic. Watch for parked cars and ride far enough away from the curb to avoid unexpected door openings or cars pulling out.

• The safest place to ride your bike is on the street where bikes are expected to follow the same rules of the road as cars and ride in the same direction. Children under 10 years of age are not mature enough to ride in the street and are better riding on the sidewalk. Make sure riding on the sidewalk is allowed and watch for cars coming in or turning out of driveways or allies.

• Be courteous to pedestrians. Always when you near pedestrians say “excuse me” or tell them you are passing on their left.

Stay safe, be cool, follow the tips and rules of the road and have a great summer riding your bike!

Email suggestions for future House Calls columns to Beth Liles at Sutter Coast Hospital, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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