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Be Your Best Bicyclist

Speak Now played through my earbuds as I biked down the sidewalk, singing along as any good Swiftie does. Little did I know that in a matter of seconds, my carefree bike ride was about to take quite a painful turn. As I crossed the crosswalk, I failed to notice a raised curb. My front tire struck the curb head-on, sending me flying onto the sidewalk pavement. Luckily, I was wearing a helmet, so I only fractured my wrist, avoiding a much worse head injury. 

That ride reminds me of the importance of staying alert and taking proper safety precautions when biking. Incidents like mine are all too common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over a thousand bicyclist deaths and tens of thousands of non-fatal injuries last year in the United States. Tragically, over half of the fatalities involved cyclists not wearing helmets. Following basic safety guidelines and wearing proper protective gear could have prevented these incidents. Every bike ride should begin by putting on a properly fitted helmet; taking the time to ensure the helmet fits snugly could save your life. Besides helmets, NHTSA recommends the following to avoid crashes: 

  • Ride a bike that fits: A bike that is too big or small for you is hard to control; make sure the seat is adjusted to a proper height for your legs. 

  • Ride a bike that works: You want the brakes to work to avoid accidents. Be sure to inflate the tires to their recommended PSI every few weeks because low tire pressure affects braking distances and hinders steering ability. 

  • Ride with the proper equipment: Having reflective gear and a helmet is crucial to increase visibility. 

  • Ride on a prepared route: Choose less traffic and slower speeds. 

  • Ride on a bike predictably: ride in the direction of traffic, obey street laws, and focus on the road. 

Biking is one of life's cheapest pleasures, riding a simple yet powerful machine that can take you through the beautiful world. But with that independence comes tremendous responsibility. As I recovered from my wrist fracture, every twinge of pain served as a reminder of how easily a fun bike ride can take a turn for the worst. I feel embarrassed thinking back to how recklessly I had been riding that day, lost in the music instead of being fully present and aware of my surroundings. You should be aware, prepared, and cautious to keep that thrill alive. 

So, please take something away from my injury and the thousands of other injuries across the United States: wear a helmet, ditch the music, follow the rules of the road, keep your bike tuned up, and never take your eyes off the path ahead. With just a little extra care, the road before you can keep rolling joyfully and safely for miles and miles to come.

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