By Tom Kiurski

With the weather turning around, revealing green grass and colorful flowers, many people look forward to spending more time outdoors. One activity enjoyed by many, including myself, is bicycling. As you prepare to head out for a ride this spring, take a few minutes to check your bike safety equipment and refresh yourself on bike safety.

The first step is to make sure your bicycle is ready to go. A good memory aid is to check your bike ABCs before anything else:

Air: Make sure your tires are properly inflated for your ride.
Brakes: Make sure they grip and stop the bike before you getting on it.
Chain: Make sure it is properly lubricated and attaches to the sprockets without hanging up or slipping off easily.
If a child will be riding, make sure you check the height of the bike seat. The rider should be able to stand flat on both feet with the bike upright underneath them and a one-inch clearance from the bike frame.

Bicycle vs. motor vehicle crashes accounted for 728 lives lost in 2001. While this number creeps downward each year, we still must use every means possible to keep safe while riding. Bike helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by almost 90 percent. Look for helmets with Snell Memorial Foundation or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approval stickers.

Learn the rules of the road if you intend to ride on roads with vehicular traffic. Bicyclists must follow the same rules as motorists. Ride in single-file with the flow of traffic, not against it. Stay to the right side of the road and beware of sewer gratings, opening car doors and broken glass or loose gravel on the road. Before merging into traffic, look left, right and then left again to make sure it is safe to proceed.

While 728 fatalities seem like a lot, let’s compare that number with some other means of transportation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses a states that 2.51 bicyclists were killed per one million people in 2000 – the same figure of pedestrians would be 17.3 people per million killed and for motor vehicle fatalities, the figure is closer to 127 people per million.

Take a few minutes this spring to check your bicycle out before your riding season begins. Then go and enjoy the weather.

Tom Kiurski is a lieutenant, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999) is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.