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Cop Talk: Bike safety starts with helmet

Now that warm weather is here, what are some things people need to be aware of when riding their bicycle?

It sure seemed to be a long winter, and now the snow is gone and school is going to be out before we know it. This is a great time to visit bicycle safety. There are a number of things bicyclists should know and follow for bicycle riding to be safe.

The first basic step is to wear a helmet while riding bike.

Wearing a helmet while riding a bike lowers the chances of a brain injury by 88 percent if the rider falls over. If someone is not wearing a helmet, even a low speed crash or fall can cause serious injury or death. Approximately 75 percent of bicycle injuries or deaths are caused by head trauma.

Picking the right helmet is important too. The helmet needs to be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. When worn, the helmet should fit level on the head and the brim should be approximately one or two centimeters above the eyebrows. It should fit snugly.

In addition to helmet safety, there are other things that can be done to help make bike riding safer. Don't wear clothing that can get caught in the bike chain or spokes of the wheels. Also, wear closed toed shoes instead of sandals, flip-flops or riding barefoot. In addition, wear brightly colored clothing to be more visible. Reflective items are also important.

When riding the bike, make sure to ride on the right-hand side of the road. That means bicycles travel the same direction as motor vehicles. If there are bicycle lanes, it is best to ride in that lane.

Also, when riding on any street or roadway, ride single file, not side by side. A bicyclist shouldn't swerve in and out of traffic and should look before making any turn to make sure there are no other vehicles approaching.

Additionally, using proper hand/arm signals is important for bicycle safety. The signal needs to be given at least 100 feet before turning or stopping, which gives plenty of time for other vehicles and bikers to see the signal and respond appropriately. The hand/arm signals are performed with the left arm.

To signal a right turn, the left arm is extended out from the body and bent at the elbow so the left hand is up, and the arm makes an "L" shape.

To signal a left turn, the left arm is extended straight out from the body, and the arm is parallel to the roadway.

To signal a stop, the left arm is extended out from the body, and the arm is bent at the elbow with the hand toward the street making an upside down "L" shape.

Minnesota State Statute 169.222 addresses what the rights and responsibilities are for bicyclists. This law includes not having more people on the bicycle than it was designed for when it was manufactured, not hanging on to a vehicle and getting pulled, the bicyclists cannot carry items or packages that make it impossible for the rider to not have at least one hand on the handlebars and be able to stop the bike.

The bicycle also needs to have reflectors for the front and back of the bike as well as on the pedals. If riding bike at night, the bike is to be equipped with a light that emits white light at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle.

Wearing a helmet and proper attire, along with following the rules of the road, can ensure that every bicyclist has a safe and fun time while riding bike and will be able to enjoy our great Minnesota summer with friends and family.

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The Alexandria Police Department and the Echo Press have teamed together to create "Cop Talk, Ask the Alexandria Police Department." Each article will feature an answer to a question from a reader, a safety tip or some timely topic.