Safe Cycling for Sustainability

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Tompkins Weekly 8-19-2013

By Jonathan Maddison

The summer and fall months are a great time to enjoy Tompkins County by bicycle. Way2Go  recommends you take steps to ensure you remain safe while cycling. In New York state, bicyclists under the age of 14 are required by law to wear approved bicycle helmets when bicycling or riding as passengers on bicycles. 75% of fatal bike crashes involve a serious head trauma and helmets have been shown to prevent up to 88% of brain injuries. Properly fitting a bike helmet and other helmet related tips:
– Buy helmets that meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard for bicycle helmets
– Manufacturers typically recommend that helmets are replaced after five years of use. Replace a helmet if you’ve crashed. Crashes can compact the protective foam in the helmet that is designed to absorb the impact of a crash
– A helmet should fit snuggly, so that while it is sitting on top of your head it doesn’t rock side to side
– The helmet should sit one or two finger widths above your eyebrow
– Adjust straps so that the center of the left buckle is under your chin and when buckled there is room for no more than one or two fingers under the strap

Many bike crashes can be avoided by following safe cycling practices. Here are a few safety tips for cycling:
– Ride with traffic
– Keep to the right but also leave enough room (at least 3 feet) to steer around road hazards or car doors that may swing open
– Obey traffic lights and signs. Riding through a red light is dangerous and unlawful. Signal your turns
– Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen
– In the city of Ithaca,  you may not ride your bicycle on sidewalks

It is also important for motorists to consider safety when sharing the road with bicycles. Some basic tips for motorists:
– Keep at least 3 feet of distance between your vehicle and the cyclist. Unexpected events can cause a cyclist the need to swerve
– If you pass a cyclist, check your blind spot before merging back into the lane to ensure there is enough distance between your vehicle and the cyclist
– When driving, never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can’t see
– Be cautious when backing up – pedestrians or cyclists can move into your path

Are you looking for a safe place to try cycling? Streets Alive is once again coming to Ithaca’s streets on September 22nd! Organized by the Human Services Coalition’s Creating Healthy Places program, Streets Alive! consists of closed streets with open roads to walk, roll, bike, and move. There will be activity hubs with organized events like dancing in the streets, music and a fun and educational bike rodeo for kids to learn and practice bicycle maneuvering. There will be free helmets and fittings, as well as information about bike safety and bike mechanics on hand to help you dust off your ten-speed.

For information about getting around Tompkins County safely, affordably and comfortably contact Way2Go at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County at (607)-272-2292, or

Jonathan Maddison is the Way2Go Travel Training Coordinator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.

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