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Time to think bike safety

Dr. Drew Werner

EAGLE COUNTY – They’re coming out of the woodwork! Like the buds on the trees and flowers rising out of the ground, a new crop of little ones are once again filling our yards, sidewalks and streets with laughter. At the same time their big brothers and sisters are tearing up the pavement on shiny bikes. As the skis and boards are stored, chains are oiled and bicyclists everywhere are making their exodus onto roads, pathways and trails. What does that mean? A bit more care for all of us.With many thanks to Jeff Layman, Eagle County’s undersheriff, here are some important tips for us all.n If you are driving look out. Bicyclists are harder to see, and young people do not always look both waysn Remember pedestrians always have the right of way.n Bicyclists must always follow the rules of the road. That includes obeying all traffic signs and using signals to turn.n Always ride with the flow of traffic.n If bike paths are available use them, but remember pedestrians have the right of way if you are on a bike.n It is safer to ride single file if you are on the road.n When crossing intersections children especially should get of their bikes and become pedestrians. Then they have the right of way.n ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET!If you need a helmet, SallyAnn Bluhm, the director of ThinkFirst-Vail Valley Medical Center, is the person for you. Sally is an expert on safety and bike helmets. Through ThinkFirst, she is giving away a lot of helmets for children and adults this summer. On June 10 at Freedom Park in Edwards she will be doing helmet education and giving away 125 bike helmets to kids or adults who need them. You also can look for SallyAnn at Eagle Flight Days in Eagle on June 23-25, and at the Back to School Health Fairs later in the summer. If you would like more information about Think First or her helmet give-a-ways call her at 479-7221.To make sure your new (or old!) helmet will protect you like it should, it needs to fit right. Adapted from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, here are some brief instructions on how to fit your (or equally importantly your child’s) helmet. For more information, go to http://www.bhsi.org/. You can also check out http://www.cpsc.gov/kids/kidsafety/correct.html for drawings of a proper fit.The first thing to remember is helmets don’t work unless they are on your head. Your bicycle handlebars don’t need one dangling there. The second thing to remember is that helmets are not hats. The helmet must be level on your head and strapped on securely to be protective in a crash. In addition, the fitting pads inside must touch all the way around and the strap needs to be comfortably snug. So, how do you do all this? First, adjust the fit pads or ring.Most helmets come with extra foam fitting pads to customize the fit. You can usually remove the top pad or use a thin one there to lower the helmet on the head, bringing its protection down further on the sides. Use thicker pads on the side if your head is narrow and there is a space, or add thicker pads in the back for shorter heads. Move pads around to touch your head evenly all the way around. If you have a model with a fitting ring instead, just adjust the fit by tightening the ring as needed. Next, adjust the straps.Put the helmet on, level on your head. Adjust the rear (nape) straps, then the front straps, to locate the Y fitting where the straps come together just under your ear. You may have to slide the straps across the top of the helmet to get them even on both sides. Then adjust the chinstrap so it is comfortably snug. Now adjust the rear stabilizer if the helmet has one. Are you done?Shake your head around vigorously. Then put your palm under the front edge and push up and back. Can you move the helmet more than an inch or so from level, exposing your bare forehead? If the answer is “yes,” you need to tighten the strap in front of your ear. Now reach back and pull up on the back edge. Can you move the helmet more than an inch? If so, tighten the nape strap. When you are done, your helmet should be level, feel solid on your head and be comfortable. It should not bump on your glasses (if it does, tighten the nape strap). If it still does not fit that way, keep working with the straps and pads, or try another helmet. It is important to remember that not every helmet fits every head. Pick a color and style you like, but if you can’t get it to fit well, pick another style.Make your summer a safe one. I hope to see you out on the trailDr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to editor@vaildaily.com or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.Vail, Colorado


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