There are few things more freeing than jumping on a bike and touring around town. Seeing the sights up close can be more fun than riding in a car and it's a great way to be physically active.
At the same time that you're enjoying yourself, it's important to keep safety in mind.
"It's critical that everyone wear a helmet every time they ride a bike," said (name and title) of (county health agency name).
Head injury is the leading cause of bicycle-related death and using a helmet is the most effective way to reduce these injuries and fatalities, but still only a small percentage of Americans wear helmets, (s/he said). In New York State, almost 19,000 people are treated and released from hospital emergency departments each year and more than 1,650 people are more severely injured and require hospitalization as a result of bicycle crashes. More than one third of those hospitalized have a traumatic brain injury. Each year about 54 New York residents are killed in bicycle crashes and an overwhelming majority of those killed were not wearing helmets.
New York State law requires that all children under the age of 14 wear approved bicycle helmets when biking or riding as a passenger on a bicycle. A violation could result in a fine up to $50 for the parent or guardian. Regardless of your age, to be safe you should always wear a helmet.
When shopping for a helmet, be sure the helmet sits level on your head covering the top of the forehead, is snug yet comfortable and has limited movement from side to side and front to back. All helmets sold in the United States must be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), so look for a CPSC sticker. If you fall and strike your head on the ground, replace the helmet. Keep all your protective gear and equipment in good working order.
All bicyclists should know and follow these rules of the road:
- Ride on the right side of the road. You will head in the same direction as cars so you will see their tail lights, not their headlights.
- Obey traffic signs and signals just as you would if you were driving a car.
- Use correct hand signals when turning.
- Stop at all intersections and marked and unmarked crosswalks.
- Stop and look both ways before you enter a street.
- Yield the right of way to pedestrians, skateboarders and skaters. Never pass until you have the other person's attention.
- Children should ride on sidewalks and paths until they are at least 10 years old, able to show good riding skills and able to observe basic rules of the road.
- Wear reflective clothing and make sure your bike has a headlight and a rear reflector. If you ride at night, consider using additional lighting, reflective bands, vests and clothing to increase your visibility.
For more information about bicycle safety, call the (local health agency name) at (telephone number) or visit the State Health Department Web site at www.nyhealth.gov .