Safety tips for bicyclists

Even if one can't find a good bicycle safety program, there are ways to help makes bicycling safer, says Christine Manor of the League of American Wheelmen. * Buy a bicycle that fits. "It's very unsafe to put anybody, and especially a child, on anything that's too big. If you treat the bicycle reasonably well, if you don't leave it in the rain, you can sell it next year to somebody else with a kid."

* Don't assume that because a child rides on the sidewalk, he or she doesn't have to be careful. If anything, youngsters should be morem careful. Too often cars coming out of driveways or alleys don't stop to look both ways until they're through the sidewalk and on the street.

* Get children used to handling a bike as Mom and Dad handle the car.

* Make sure the bicycle is mechanically sound. "The biggest mistake a lot of parents make is to buy a bicycle and never look at it again, so there are inoperative brakes, loose wheels, handlebars, and seats that can be twisted," Ms. Manor says.

* Don't have anything loose that can get caught in the spokes or chain. Don't let a child ride in pants that are very floppy; put a rubber band around the ankle on the chain side.

* Nearly all states are require a headlight for riding at night and a bell of some kind. But Ms. Manor says: "Don't let a child go out at night, even with a light. It's tough to handle a machine at night and have the understanding of traffic and potential hazards."

* Don't let a child ride a bicycle while wearing earphones.

* Consider protective gear."I don't go anywhere without a helmet myeslf, and I recommend it -- especially if you're going to be doing much riding in traffic."

* Always wear shoes that are fastened to your feet on a bike.

* Wearing sunglasses can help keep grit, bugs, and bright sun out of your eyes.

* "If you're sensitive to sun, wear long sleeves or a sun screen of some sort.You can get carried away on a bicycle -- a nice breeze is going by and you don't feel too hot. Then suddenly you've spent three hours in the sun."

* "Ride straight and ride predictably. If you do those two things, you've got most of the battle won."

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