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Riding a bicycle is more than basic transportation--it can be a fun and exciting hobby. When you ride, you are not alone. You share the road with cars, trucks, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Since accidents can turn bicycling adventure into a tragedy, here are a few tips to help make your ride a safe one.

Protect your head

Wear a helmet; many communities have local laws that require bicyclists to wear a helmet. Studies have shown that using a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries by up to 85 percent. Select a helmet that has a snug but comfortable fit.

Go with the flow of traffic

You must obey the rules of the road. These include all traffic signals, signs, and road markings. Ride on the right side of the street in single file. Use the proper hand signals. Never weave from lane to lane or tailgate to hitch rides on moving cars or trucks. For a complete set of rules regarding bicycles and traffic, visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

Be aware of traffic around you. Seven out of ten car-bicycle crashes occur at driveways or other intersections. Before you enter a street or intersection, check for traffic and always look left-right-left. Walk your bicycle across busy streets at corners or crosswalks.

Stay alert

Keep a look-out for obstacles in your path. Watch out for pot holes, storm drain gratings, cracks, railroad tracks, loose gravel, and broken glass. Before going around any object, look ahead and behind you for a free gap in traffic. Plan your move, and then signal your intentions. Be especially careful in wet weather, as water can make you slip, and can cause your brakes to work improperly.

Beware of darkness

Be cautious when riding at night. If you have to ride at night, you should have a front light attached to the bicycle, or to your body, that is visible from 300 feet to the front and from the sides. You must have a red rear reflector. Wear reflective clothing or reflective materials, especially on your ankles, wrists, back, and helmet. Ride in areas that are familiar and on streets that are well lit.

Protecting your bicycle from theft

A bicycle can be stolen from just about any place, but simple precautions can deter would-be bike thieves. Remember, most bikes that are stolen were not locked!

Always lock your bicycle securely, whether you are gone for a few minutes or a few hours. Use a U-lock, securing both wheels and the frame to a stationary object such as a post, fence, tree, or a bike rack. For extra security, add a chain or cable with a good padlock. Always park your bike where it can be easily seen.

Remember, locking the bike to itself by securing the wheels to the frame doesn't help, because a thief can carry it away and remove the lock later.