What is the big deal about riding a bicycle in Chicago? If you already ride, you get it – Chicago is a fantastic city to see and travel by bicycle and one that becomes more bike-friendly as every year passes. If you do not ride a bicycle, you probably have noticed the surging ranks of cyclists on the streets, at our intersections, and around the Loop and wondered what is behind the sudden and significant increase. Perhaps you have even given some thought to riding yourself or allowing your children to ride a bicycle.
Biking in the city can be great if you take the proper precautions to make sure you ride safely. Experts agree that one of the best things you can do to stay injury-free in the event of a bicycle accident is to wear a proper, well-fitting bike helmet. With literally thousands of helmets to choose from, how do you know what helmet is best for you?
Make sure you try on a helmet before you decide whether or not to buy it. There is nothing that can tell you whether or not your head will fit properly in a helmet quite like trying it on and many specialty bike shops will even insist on it. A bicycle helmet should be snug but not uncomfortably tight on your head all the way around. If you are buying a helmet for a child, make sure you opt for a child-sized option and resist the urge to buy one a little large so that your child grows into it. Instead, buy a helmet that fits your child right now as one that is too large will leave gaps between your child’s head and the helmet, making it less safe than it should be.
Like the pedals on a bicycle, the straps of a helmet will need to be adjusted before use. Tighten the straps so that they fit snugly under your chin and so that the straps make a “V” shape below and slightly in front of your earlobes. With the helmet level on your head and the straps secured, the helmet should not move more than an inch in any direction and any attempt at pushing it forward and backward should result in your skin on your face and head wrinkling.
Look in a mirror while wearing your helmet to double check your fit. The helmet should be level from front to back and the front should sit no more than one inch above your eyebrows. A tilted helmet or one that sits too high is considered unsafe as it will not provide optimal protection in the event of a crash.
Make a note to yourself when you buy a helmet of the date you purchased it and when you start using it. Helmets should be replaced after any accident or every five years, at a minimum, so knowing when you got the helmet is a great idea. A helmet’s safety declines with time so it is unwise to use an old helmet. Instead, opt for a newer, safer model for you and your family.
Know that a lot of gimmick helmets are considered unwise purchases by experts. Some have sharp corners that may cause an uneven impact in a crash while others have excessive venting that leads to less foam protection around a skull. Resist the urge to buy a helmet based on how it looks and instead opt for one because of how it will function in the event of a traffic accident.
Several independent agencies rate different makes and models of helmets, including Consumer’s Reports. If safety is your goal, consider looking up these rankings and reviews before making your final selection to be assured that your helmet is a good choice for you.
Accidents happen. Wearing a helmet in Illinois can help save your life and/or prevent injuries if you are involved in a bicycle accident, regardless of who is at fault, so all riders should wear helmets to limit their risks of harm as much as possible.
Prior Blog Entry:
The Risk of Tire Blowouts is Still High in Chicago, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published September 19, 2016.
Bike helmets, Consumer Reports.