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Bicycling Safety Tips

From paved bike paths to mountain biking single track, Summit County offers a wide array of bicycling opportunities. But as more and more of us travel the open roads on our bicycles for fun, transportation and fitness, the number of injuries caused by unsafe cycling continues to rise.

More than 1.3 million people are treated for bicycle-related injuries each year.  As orthopaedic surgeons, we treat many of these injuries. The most common cycling accidents involve colliding with a car or another bicycle; loss of control; entangling hands, feet or clothing in the bicycle; or feet slipping off the pedals.
So whether you are an avid rider or a first time cycler, it’s a good idea for bicyclists of all ages to remember these important safety precautions:

  • Always wear an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved helmet.
    • Make sure it fits snugly but comfortably and does not obstruct vision.
    • It should have a chin strap and buckles that stay securely fastened.
    • Studies have shown that wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries by 85 to 88 percent.
  • Make certain the bicycle is the proper size for the rider. Appropriately sized frames, handlebar and seat heights, as well as understanding of gear systems, help reduce fractures or sprains.
  • Consider wearing knee, wrist and elbow pads to protect bones and joints when falling.
  • If you fall off a bicycle, maneuver yourself as far away from other danger like moving traffic.
  • Proper supervision of younger riders at all times. It is recommended that younger children ride only in enclosed areas.
  • Wear bright fluorescent colors and avoid biking at night. If biking at night, make sure to have rear reflectors and a working headlight visible from 500 feet away.
  • Avoid plastic pedals, which can be slippery when wet and cause your feet to stray off the pedal.
  • Stay alert and watch for obstacles.
  • Consider using training wheels for young and first-time riders.
  • Ride in the direction of traffic and be aware of surrounding traffic. Obey all rules of the road; bicycles are vehicles, too.
  • Do not ride double, attempt stunts or go too fast.
  • Avoid loose clothing and wear appropriate footwear. Use pant leg clips to keep clothing grease-free and out of the bicycle chain.
  • Avoid riding on uneven or slippery surfaces. All types of brakes may not work as well when wheels are wet and require more distance to stop.
  • Drinking enough fluids, stretching and scheduling routine activity can help avoid injuries related to overuse.
  • Ensure the bicycle is properly adjusted for your height and well-maintained. Replace broken or missing parts.

Dr. Greg Poulter joined Vail • Summit Orthopaedics in the summer of 2008. He provides complete spine care for both children and adults, offering the most current minimally-invasive and fusion-sparing techniques.