Biking to Health
There’s nothing like bicycling. From the feeling of the wind in your hair to the sight of the landscape floating by, bicycling offers a fun and increasingly popular way to stay in shape that requires no advanced skills or specialized equipment. Plus, bicycling is great for more than just recreation. For a growing contingent of Stanislaus County residents, those two wheels have become a favored way to save gas, protect the environment and commute to work or school.
On Stanislaus County’s roadways, it’s essential both for bike riders and drivers to ensure that they are sharing the road safely. That’s why the Stanislaus County Bicycling Club (SCBC) works hard to educate everyone about how to make your bike ride safer. According to Susan Dion, SCBC President, bicycling safety is a top concern for club members as well as city and county officials. “Our club is about riding socially, having fun with each other, but also advising our members, riders and the community on how to bike safely.”
Dion said that there are a few essential—and easy—ways to ensure you’re staying safe on the road that the SCBC advocates for all its members.
Wear a Helmet
“Helmets are number one, of course, and we’re always pushing for everyone who rides a bike to wear a helmet,” said Dion, adding that SCBC has been very proactive on this front, including handing out free helmets for kids at the annual Family Bicycling Festival which takes place each May in Modesto. According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce head injury risk by as much as 85%.
Share the Road
“A lot of times when there are conflicts on the road, it’s usually a case of drivers and bicyclists misunderstanding that they need to share the road,” said Dion. To minimize misunderstandings that lead to accidents, bicyclists are encouraged to obey all the same traffic laws that drivers do. Bicyclists should ensure that they obey traffic signs and signals, should always ride in the direction of traffic, follow lane markings (don’t turn left from the right lane, etc) and should never pass on the right. Using hand signals to indicate planned turns is another great way to increase your safety.
When you’re making good time on your bike, it may seem like you’re floating, but don’t lose sight of the fact that your vehicle of choice is much safer with some precautionary habits. Keep both hands ready to brake, try to remain aware of the position of other vehicles on the road and look out for road hazards including gravel, ice, sand or debris that might trip you up. Making eye contact with drivers is a good habit to get into, as well, as this ensures that a distracted driver who doesn’t see you doesn’t cause an accident.
Finally, ensuring your bike is in good repair and that all required safety materials are present is a great way to keep you safe. Ensuring that your bike is equipped with a front headlight and a rear reflector or taillight and that your brakes, tires and chains are all working properly can save you hassles down the road (or the trail).
If you want to learn more about bicycling safety, check out the SCBC at stancobike.org or visit Dion and the other riders at the Family Bicycling Festival on the morning of May 18 in front of the Gallo Center for the Arts in Downtown Modesto. The Festival will include a host of family-friendly activities, information and safe-riding tips for kids and adults alike. This event is part of National Bike Month, which has promoted bicycling in the U.S. since 1956.