Bicycle Riding for the Wise and Safe


Healthy Living – August 29, 2017
Anthony Tannous, MD – Eastern Maine Medical Center
Tannous.jpgOur beautiful state has been treating us to some gorgeous weather this month. There is really nowhere like Maine in the summer. I don’t know about you but it all makes me want to hop on my bicycle and ride outdoors for hours. It is great exercise that many Mainers of all ages enjoy on a regular basis in the non-snowy seasons.

We do however see and treat a substantial number of injuries ranging from mild to life-threatening secondary to bicycle accidents. In 2015 in the United States, over 1,000 bicyclists died and there were almost 467,000 bicycle-related injuries. Some of them are unfortunately hard to prevent but the great majority can be avoided with the following of sound safety measures.

Most of the injuries we see involve the head and the extremities but in reality, bicyclers are very exposed and vulnerable when riding a moving object in the midst of bigger and stronger moving objects. We have seen a fair amount of spleen, pancreas, liver, and bowel injuries secondary to strong torso impact after crashing.

Here are some CDC approved tips to make your bicycle riding safer and more enjoyable.
  1. Always wear a properly fitted standardized helmet. I like to feel the air rushing through my hair as much as the next person but riding without a helmet is reckless behavior.
  2. Adjust the bicycle to fit. Bicycle shops can help you get the perfect fit and height. In general the seat should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended
  3. Make sure the tires are inflated and both the front and rear brakes work prior to embarking on your ride. Keep a tire pump to make it more convenient for yourself.
  4. Wear flashy colors that will make you visible at all times of the day and most weather conditions. They’re not the most appealing but definitely safer than black and dark blue.
  5. Avoid riding at night. It’s simply not safe and there are not many ways to make it safe. Make sure you have reflectors in the front and rear of your bicycle in case your ride takes longer than anticipated.
  6. Always go with the traffic flow and obey all traffic laws (because other vehicles are!)
  7. Yield to traffic and pedestrians and always be predictable. No sudden lane changes or surprise moves.
  8. Never drink alcohol before riding your bicycle. You will need fast reflexes in case of accidents. It seems self-evident but we still see intoxicated bicycle riders in our emergency departments.
  9. Travel with a mini tool kit that allows making quick repairs for a safe ride home.
  10. Remember to keep smiling. This is some of the best exercise you will engage in and your emotional health is as if not more important than your physical health.
For more information about safe helmets please visit