Practice Bike Safety

Bike riding is a fun, healthy, and environmentally-friendly activity to do. But it is important to practice bike safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, more than 500,000 people in the United States are treated in emergency department, and more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries.

One of the most important pieces of practicing bike safety is wearing a helmet. A head injury can mean brain injury. That's why it's so important to wear your bike helmet. Wearing one doesn't mean you can be reckless, but a helmet will provide some protection for your head and brain in case you fall. You want to make sure that your helmet fits properly and that it is not too small or too big. If you are unsure if your helmet fits you well, ask someone at a bike store.

You also want to make sure that you take care of your bike and your helmet. You should not throw your bike or helmet around. In fact, it's important to inspect your bicycle and helmet for any defects. When preparing to go for a bike ride, check to make sure your reflectors are secure, the brakes work properly, and the gears shift smoothly, and that the tires are properly inflated and secure.

Here are some other key things to remember while biking. For one, always bring water. Especially in the heat, which is even more dehydrating when you're exerting yourself. For a whole day out, one or two water bottles are not enough. Either wear a backpack with water bottles inside or get a fancy Camelback, an insulated water bag you wear on your back. You should also be sure to stay alert for vehicles, pedestrians, and other possible potential dangers like potholes or debris. Whenever possible ride on marked paths and safe areas. When you are riding your bike on the street, always go the same direction as car traffic.

If you are mountain biking, when in doubt, walk. Mountain biking can really be dangerous if you are not careful when you need to be. If a hill looks too steep or a curve too tricky, get off. And don't go off the trails. In addition to messing up the wildlife habitats, you also can hurt yourself. And after a rain, don't go out on closed trails. This erodes the trail and ruins it for everyone else.

Biking is a great activity for families and friends to do together. Spring is here, so take advantage of the warm weather and get on a bike and go for a ride. Just be sure to take the time to be safe.

Check out Facebook page to learn more about bike safety and some fun trails to go biking.

Rachel Rodney, R.D., is a dietitian at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Health Matters” is a weekly column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.