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by Lydia Blankenship, R.N.

As the weather becomes warmer, more and more people will be spending time outdoors—and, in many cases, on bicycles. While biking can be a fun way to get some exercise, it can also cause serious injuries if you’re not careful.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, more children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport. Helmets can
reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent , yet only 45 percent of children ages 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet.

Bicyclists can reduce the risk of injury by taking some basic safety precautions (including wearing a properly fitting helmet):

  1. Wear a helmet correctly sized for you. A helmet can protect the skull from impact when a collision does occur.
  2. Adjust your bicycle to fit you. Allow 1 to 2 inches between you and the top bar, keep the seat level from front to back, and be sure there is a bend in the knee when the leg is extended to the pedals.
  3. Conduct a maintenance check before riding. Check the tires for proper inflation, and make sure the brakes work.
  4. Stay visible. Regardless of what time of day you choose to ride, make sure you are visible to motorists and others. Wearing white does not necessarily make you more visible. Choose a bright, neon or fluorescent color instead. Additionally, use reflective tape or flashing lights to make yourself more visible at night.
  5. Keep control. If you use your bicycle as a means of transportation, keep your personal items such as books or laptops in a carrier or a backpack.
  6. Avoid riding at night. Whenever possible, try to ride during the daylight hours (when motorists are better able to see you).
  7. Use signals when turning. Always look behind and around you before choosing to turn. Signaling before turning will also alert motorists, avoiding a potential collision.
  8. Go with the flow. Always drive in the same direction as traffic, not against it.
  9. Look out for parked cars. Be alert and ready for doors to open or cars to pull out into traffic. Keep a safe distance from the cars as well.
  10. Stay alert. Hazards in the road, such as potholes and debris, can cause a cyclist to move into traffic quickly to avoid the obstacle. This is dangerous, so be sure to pay close attention to the road. Also, avoid using headsets when riding. You need all of your senses and awareness to avoid dangerous situations.

Remember, because bicycles are considered a vehicle, bicyclists are required to obey all traffic laws. Children less than 10 years of age should not ride in the street. Rather, have them bike on the sidewalk.

In order to ensure Bastrop residents remain safe, the St. David’s South Austin Medical Center will be giving away youth and adult bicycle helmets (while supplies last) and injury prevention materials from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, during Yesterfest in downtown Bastrop. We hope to see you there!

Lydia Blankenship, R.N., is the trauma program manager at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center (St. David’s Emergency Center in Bastrop is an extension of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center).

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