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(For the week of May 5, 2008)
National Bike Month
by James L. Cummins

National Bike Month is great inspiration and motivation for everyone to get out and cycle, especially as the weather gets better, as we have been witnessing here in Mississippi. The League of American Bicyclists is promoting Bike-to-Work Week from May 12 - 16, 2008, and Bike-to-Work Day on Friday, May 16. Now is a great time to discuss bike safety.

First and foremost, the helmet is a very important piece of safety equipment. Buy a helmet with an ANSI, Snell or ASTM safety approval sticker inside. Improperly wearing a helmet can be more dangerous than not wearing one at all. For a proper fitting helmet, make sure no more than three fingers fit between the chin and the helmet strap. When pushing the helmet from the back forward, the helmet should not touch the bridge of the nose. It should sit squarely and securely one or two fingers above the eyebrow. When pushing the helmet upward and back from the front, the helmet should not go above the forehead.

Some rules of the road are: Obey all traffic regulations, signs, signals and markings. Bicycles are subject to the same rules of vehicular traffic, wherever they apply. Observe all local ordinances pertaining to bike safety. It is your responsibility to know them and obey them. Keep right: drive with the traffic, not against it. Drive single file. Keep as close to the curb as practical. Watch out for drain grates, soft shoulders and other road surface hazards. Watch out for car doors opening and for cars pulling into traffic. Don't carry passengers or packages that interfere with your vision or control. Never hitch a ride on a truck or other vehicle. Use hand signals to indicate turning or stopping. Protect yourself at night with the required reflectors and lights. Be extremely careful at intersections, especially when making a left turn. Most accidents happen at intersections. Drive your bike defensively; watch out for the other person.

Biking will allow you to not only enjoy your surroundings; you will save money – especially with the price of gas in the mid-three dollar range – and also enjoy some healthy benefits. Cycling reduces air, water and noise pollution. You don't have to pay for automobile insurance or gasoline. You will reduce stress and improve your cardio vascular health, which is something that many Mississippians need to be thinking about.

Riding your bike is a fun, life-long activity you can enjoy in a variety of climates. It is also a great means to see the world around you.

In honor of National Bike Month, National Bike-to-Work Week and Bike-to-Work Day, watch your local paper, television or listen to your local radio for specific events in your community.

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.