This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Safe on Two Wheels
The weather outside is perfect for bike riding, and it's bike month. As the days have gotten longer, more and more people are out on bikes, whether for recreation or transportation. It's great that so many people want to ride, but many are not doing so safely, putting themselves or others at risk for an accident. Whether you're driving a bike or a motor vehicle, it's time for a refresher on what to do when sharing our state's roads.
Jeff Moser, an avid Carson City cyclist, blogger at www.BikeCarson.com and former Muscle Powered president, had this message for cyclists: "When riding a bicycle on the road, the cyclist needs to follow the same traffic laws as a motorist. This means riding with the flow of traffic on the right-hand side of the road, obeying traffic signs and signals, and no riding on the sidewalks. These three actions are the most common mistakes I see cyclists make, and they are unpredictable, startling, and put other road users in danger."
Following the rules of the road is a great first step, but cyclists can do even more to improve safety and help make their presence and intentions known to other road users. Bicycles don't have turn signals, but cyclists still can let others know which direction they plan to go. A left arm extended straight means you are turning left. A left arm bent upward lets people know you are turning right. A left arm bent downwards signals that you are going to slow down or stop. Help others see you by wearing bright, reflective clothing, and if you are going to ride at night, make sure your bike has lights on it, as required by Nevada law.
Finally, wear a helmet. Wearing a properly-fitted helmet could save your life. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that in 2008, 91 percent of cyclists who were killed in a cycling accident were not wearing a helmet. The risk of not wearing a helmet far outweighs your desire to look cool, and even an inexpensive helmet can reduce your risk of serious head injury by 85 percent.
Share the road. Remember, cyclists are a legal part of traffic, with as much right to be there as people in automobiles. A bicycle is not a toy but a viable means of transportation - the only means of transportation for many people. There are benefits of sharing the road, including safer, more inviting streets with reduced crime, increased property value, a better environment, and an overall enhanced quality of life.
If you aren't sure what to do when you encounter a cyclist on the road, just remember that bikes are like cars, and you should treat them similarly. Allow three feet of space when you pass, and if there isn't room, wait until there is not oncoming traffic and pass safely. Keep an eye out for cyclists, and pay attention when you are driving. Don't use your cell phone and avoid other distractions; this is dangerous and against the law. Out of courtesy, try not to block or park in bike lanes as it creates additional danger for cyclists moving into traffic.
If we all follow the law and practice courteous driving and riding, Carson City can be a fun, safe place for all roadway users.
Upcoming Events: This Sunday is the Carson City Family Bike Festival. Want to know more about bike safety for the whole family? Join us at Riverview Park (at the east end of 5th Street) from 1-4 p.m. for a day of bike safety, fun, and fitness. There will be food, bike safety checks, family-friendly riding, raffle prizes and more.
For information about other Health Department services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or at www.facebook.com/cchhs.