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Ditch the dark shirt, and other bike safety tips

Why bright colors and a bike helmet are essential

Published: July 27, 2015 12:15 PM

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In many states bicycles are considered vehicles, and cyclists have to follow the rules of the road, just like car and truck drivers. Many bike-related crashes could be avoided if riders took these 10 simple bike safety steps:

Before you go

1. Wear a bike helmet that fits you and is properly adjusted. It could save your life in a crash. Consumer Reports' tests of 23 adult and children's models found several worth recommending.  

2. Be visible. Wear bright clothing (not dark—fluorescent is best). If you must ride in the dark make sure you have reflectors on the front and rear of your bike. Many states require white lights on the front and red rear reflectors; a rear red flashing light makes it easier to be seen.  

3. Check your bike to make sure:

  • Tires are inflated properly.  
  • Brakes are tight enough.
  • The chain is running smoothly. Spin the crank. If the chain is rusty and making noise, it may need to be oiled.

Check our bike helmet Ratings and learn how to properly fit your bike helmet.

On the road

4. Ride to the right of the road in the same direction as traffic. Go with the flow—not against it.

5. Keep at least one hand on the handlebars. If you need to carry books or groceries, put them in a bike carrier or backpack..

6. Be extra cautious at intersections—about half of crashes occur there. Obey traffic signals, and scan for traffic around you. Before making a turn, always look behind you for a break in traffic, then signal and position yourself in the proper lane.

7. When passing a pedestrian or another bike, warn them of your approach with a bell or shout (as in, "on your left!").

8. Don’t wear a headset when you ride—you need to hear what's going on.

9. Watch for hazards such as glass, rocks, squirrels, or potholes, which can cause you to lose control of your bike.

10. When riding near parked cars, be aware of doors that could suddenly open. The best bike safety practice is to ride far enough away from parked cars (about 4 feet) to avoid being hit by a door. 

—Karin Weisburgh

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