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Staying safe on your bicycle commute

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Bicycling's popularity is on the upswing. About 12.4 percent of Americans cycle on a regular basis and there were 47.5 million U.S. biker riders in 2017 alone. Biking is a fun, healthy and ecofriendly way to get around.

With cities around the country implementing new bike-sharing programs, it's become easier than ever to commute to work on a bike. Bicycling has a lot of advantages, but there is also a potential for danger. In 2016, 840 bicyclists died in traffic accidents. But taking precautions will help you mitigate risks and allow you to enjoy your ride.

Wear a helmet

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from injuries is to wear a properly fitted helmet. Bike helmet sizes vary depending on the manufacturer, so when you're buying a helmet try it on first to make sure it's snug and comfortable.

A good bike helmet can help prevent concussions or skull fractures in the case of a traffic accident or fall. About two-thirds of bicycle deaths and one-third of injuries involve the head or face. A helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent.

Be defensive

Some roadway safety tips can go a long way to protect you on your commute.

When riding, always assume you're invisible to motorists, because sometimes, you are. Drive with the flow of traffic and obey all road rules the same as a car would. Also, even if it will make your commute longer, use bike paths and streets with bike lanes when possible.

Be smart

Make sure your bike fits you properly and is in good working order. A bike that's too big or a bike with malfunctioning brakes is an accident waiting to happen.

Gear that makes you more visible to motorists is a must. Most bicycle deaths occur in the morning and in the evening when visibility is low - this also happens to be peak commuting time. Plan accordingly. If necessary, bring a backpack with a change of clothes for when you get to work.

Stay alert

We all know distracted driving is dangerous, but distracted biking is too. Texting, listening to music and eating while you ride are bad ideas, and it will take your focus off the road. Do whatever you can to minimize distractions - this includes familiarizing yourself with your route ahead of time. Take away any guesswork.

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