With May being National Bike Safety Month, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation reminds everyone to be safe out on the road. Riding a bicycle can be fun and a way to stay in shape, but with it comes an increased risk for injury from accidents. Sports accidents, including bicycle accidents, accounted for 9.2% of reported spinal cord injury cases since 2010, according to the National SCI Statistical Center.

A press release from Kessler Institute notes that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adolescents and adults between the ages of 45 and 54 have the highest rate of fatalities, and men are far more likely than women to be injured in a bicycle accident. Cycling accidents also result in more than 580,000 visits to the emergency department each year—nearly 60% of which involve children, adolescents, and young adults between 15 and 24 years of age.

“Riders often experience fractures, and chest, back and abdominal injuries. In fact, one in eight riders will sustain a traumatic brain injury. And while bicyclists make up only about 1% of road traffic, they account for more than 21% of all fatalities,” says Uri Adler, MD, from Kessler Institute, in the release.

“Helmets can reduce the likelihood of a brain injury by more than 85%, which is why wearing a helmet is mandated for children and strongly recommended for all adults,” Adler continues in the release. “Wearing the proper protective gear, making sure the bicycle is right for the rider, and following the rules of the road are all critical factors in helping to avoid injury.”

Adler notes in the release that, above all, bicycle riders need to be smart about how they ride. On that end, Kessler in its release offers the following 10 tips for safe bicycle riding:

  1. Choose the type of bike—city, touring, racing, mountain, etc—that best suits your needs, and make sure the bike is the proper size and fit for the rider.
  2. Always check to see that the tires are sufficiently inflated and that the brakes and handlebars are in good working order before riding.
  3. Do some warm-up exercises and stretching to help get muscles and joints ready to ride.
  4. Wear a helmet! Make sure it is properly fitted and meets industry guidelines.
  5. Be visible. Wearing reflective or bright-colored clothing will help drivers and others see you. In addition, wear appropriate footgear. Never ride barefoot or in flip-flops.
  6. Follow the rules of the road. Cyclists are required to follow the same laws as cars, including stopping at red lights and stop signs.
  7. Ride with the flow of traffic. Signal before making turns, and look all around when changing lanes or turning.
  8. Be aware of potential road hazards, such as potholes and debris, and anticipate what other cyclists, cars, and pedestrians may do that could cause you to swerve or have an accident.
  9. Never talk, text, or take photos while riding.
  10. If you experience any pain in your chest, arms, and legs, shortness of breath, or profuse sweating, stop riding immediately and seek emergency medical attention.

[Source: Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation]