Ride Your Bike Safely

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Riding bikes is a great way to get active. Riding a bike can help you:

  • Get in shape
  • Lose weight
  • Lower your risk of health conditions like heart disease
  • Save money on gas

Riding bikes is also a great way to spend time with your family and get active together. If you have kids, teach them to bike safely from the start.

Follow these safety tips every time you ride.

  • Ride a bike that’s the right size for you.
  • Check the brakes before you ride.
  • Always wear a bike helmet that fits correctly.
  • Wear bright colors and reflective tape.
  • Avoid wearing things that can get caught in your bike chain, like loose pants.
  • Ride in the same direction as cars and follow the rules of the road.
  • If possible, ride on a bike path that's separate from cars.

A bike crash could send you to the emergency room. But the good news is that many bike injuries can be prevented.

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Take Action!

Take Action: Check Your Bike

Follow these tips to make safe biking a habit.

Ride a bike that’s the right size for you.

Riders of any age should be able to put one leg on each side of the top bar (tube) of their bike with both feet flat on the ground. Otherwise, the bike isn’t safe to ride.

Check the brakes.

Make sure the brakes are working before you ride.

If you are choosing a bike for a child, choose one that brakes when the rider pedals backwards. Young children’s hands aren’t big enough or strong enough to use hand brakes.

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Take Action: Wear a Helmet

Always wear a bike helmet that fits correctly.

Get in the “helmet habit” – wear a helmet every time and everywhere you ride a bike. A bike helmet lowers your risk of a head or brain injury if you crash.

Make sure your helmet is certified by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Look for a sticker on the inside that says “CPSC.” This means it’s been tested for safety.

A bike helmet only protects you if you wear it the right way. Every time you put your helmet on, make sure that:

  • The helmet is flat on the top of your head
  • The edge rests just above your eyebrows, so the helmet covers your forehead
  • The helmet fits snugly all around your head
  • The strap is buckled snugly under your chin

To find out more, check out:

Kids grow quickly, so check regularly to make sure their helmets still fit.

Replace your helmet if you crash.

Even if your helmet doesn’t look cracked or damaged, the material inside the helmet may be crushed after an impact. This means that the helmet can’t protect your brain and head from another crash.

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Take Action: Be Easy to See

Make sure people can see you easily.

Drivers can have a hard time seeing bike riders, even during the day. Follow these tips to help drivers see you:

  • Wear neon, fluorescent, or other bright colors. You can also wear clothing that reflects light. 
  • Put something on your clothes or bike that reflects light, like reflective tape.

Try to plan ahead so your bike rides are over before it gets dark. If you are going to ride at night:

  • Make sure your bike has reflectors on the front, back, and wheels.
  • Put battery-powered lights on your bike. A red light is for the back, and a white light is for the front – just like with cars.
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Take Action: Rules of the Road

Follow the rules of the road.

  • Look both ways before entering the street.
  • Ride in the same direction as the cars.
  • Stop at all stop signs and intersections.
  • Use hand signals to show others what you plan to do next.

Learn the hand signals if you don't know them.

  • For a left turn, look behind you, hold your left arm straight out to the side, and turn carefully.
  • For a right turn, hold your left arm out and up in an “L” shape.
  • To signal that you are stopping, hold your left arm out and down in an upside-down “L” shape.

Left turn hand signal Right turn hand signal Stop hand signal

Use your left hand to make these signals for left turn, right turn, and stop.

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Take Action: Stay Alert

Stay alert.

Paying attention to the things around you can help you stay safe.

  • Look for potholes, rocks, wet leaves, or anything that could make you fall.
  • Be aware of cars that are parking or backing up.
  • Listen for traffic and other activity around you. Don’t wear headphones when you ride.
  • Try not to ride in bad weather – but if you must, go slowly.
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