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Pedal Power: 6 Cycling Safety Tips

Each year in Florida, some 25 million residents and tourists ride bicycles to beat traffic, burn calories, sightsee and share family time, according to the Florida Bicycle Association. For some, those cycling outings will end in accidents.

Distracted or inattentive motorists sometimes share the busy roads with cyclists. Over the weekend, a distracted motorist on State Road 84 in Broward County plowed into a group of cyclists, killing a man and a woman and injuring four other riders, Davie police say.

As an avid cyclist and triathlete, orthopedic trauma surgeon Lauren Crocco, M.D. [1], of Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute [2] at Baptist Health South Florida, knows first-hand the allure and the risks of cycling. She treats a range of bicycle injuries including shoulder, hand and wrist fractures resulting from falls or, in some cases, collisions with cars.

“We have lots of places to bike in our community,” Dr. Crocco said. “But riders need to be alert and smart when they ride.”

South Florida is home to some beautiful bike paths, trails and greenways that offer a safe and scenic way to exercise and see the community. See a list of paths [3] from the Keys to Palm Beach.

Stay safe and enjoy the ride by taking the following steps:

1. Use Your Head

Every biker, whether a novice or a competitive cyclist, needs to wear a helmet. “It could save your life,” said physical therapist and cyclist Peter Smith, administrative director of rehabilitation services for Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute. To fit properly, the helmet should comfortably touch your head all the way around and stay in place during shaking or impact. It should fit as low on the head as possible and be held level with a snug strap. Try a few models and sizes to find the best feel and fit. For kids, never buy a too-big helmet thinking your child will grow into it. Because sweat can wear away the pads and plastic pieces, replace your helmet every four to five years. And always replace your helmet after a crash, even if it looks undamaged.

2. Look and Listen (Not to Music)

Your surroundings, such as potholes, branches, puddles and broken glass, can be potential hazards. As tempting as it is to click on your favorite playlist, you should not wear headphones when you ride. You need to hear traffic and other sounds. “Bicycle riding is not a time for distractions,” Dr. Crocco said. “Riders have to be focused at all times.”

3. Know Thyself

Cycling is a vigorous activity. Pushing yourself can lead to exhaustion and injury. “We see patients who are very enthusiastic and try to ride long distances before they are ready,” Mr. Smith said. “They may be participating in a charity ride or riding with a group of friends, but they don’t understand the stamina they need, especially in hot weather. You need to know your limits.”

4. Go With the Flow

Obey the rules of the road by following all traffic signs, signals and lane markings. Ride in the same direction as motor vehicles. Pedal predictably — straight ahead, not weaving around cars. Use hand signals when turning.

5. Get Fitted

Make sure your bike is the proper size and fit. “This prevents you from developing chronic injuries because of a poor riding posture,” Mr. Smith said.

6. Make a Scene

Whether you’re riding at dawn or dusk, in sunshine or under cloudy skies, be visible to others. Wear neon, fluorescent or bright colors and use reflective tape or markings and flashing lights.