No doubt about it: Hitting the open road, or even a dirt track, on two pedal-powered wheels is good for your heart… and great for your soul, especially now the weather is warming up. But it's not so good for your well-being if you fail to follow some commonsense safety and security rules, both when you're riding and when you park your bicycle.
Latest figures suggest the number of bicycle accidents and fatalities is falling but the numbers are still high – around 50,000 and 600 respectively. And the number of thefts is not falling at all – about 1.5 million of them are stolen every year, according to the FBI. But a few simple measures could cut the accident rate further and really slash that theft figure.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists the following 10 Smart Routes To Bicycle Safety:
- Protect your head. Wear a helmet.
- Make sure your bicycle is adjusted properly.
- Always check brakes before riding.
- Ensure you can see clearly and be seen by others.
- Avoid biking at night.
- Always watch out for obstacles in your path.
- Cycle with the flow of traffic, not against it.
- Always be aware of the traffic around you.
- Know and obey the rules of the road.
- Check quick-release wheels are firmly fastened.
When it comes to protecting your bicycle against theft, there's no substitute for having a good lock – and always using it, no matter how safely you think your cycle is parked. Use a lock with a key (not a combination) and tether it to a fixed pole or bar -- ensuring it can't be slid off the end. U-shaped locks are considered best, especially used with a cable. Ideally, use two or three locks, especially in high-risk areas – you can't truly prevent your bike from being stolen but you can do a lot to dissuade a would-be thief. Try to park in a well-lit, high-visibility location, ideally close to other bicycles. Take a photograph of your machine, keep a note of any numbers etched in the frame and, if you're unlucky enough for it to be stolen, report it to the police immediately. Only one third of bicycle thefts are reported, which is crazy.