Bicycling is dangerous. How dangerous? Each year, cycling-related injuries send more than 500,000 people to the hospital - and more than 700 to the grave. Kids are at special risk. But everyone who rides a bike - child or adult - should be acquainted with basic bicycle safety rules. Here, with help from the National Traffic Safety Administration, are 10 of the most important ones....
Wear a helmet
Wearing a helmet can cut the risk for head injuries by 85 percent. The key is to get a good fit. Make sure the helmet fits snugly and sits flat on the head.
Make sure your bike is properly adjusted
Make sure the bike fits you. And before you ride, always check to make sure the handlebars and wheels are secure. If you carry stuff, add a carrier so you don't have to keep things in your hands.
Check your brakes
Before riding, make sure your brakes are capable of stopping the bicycle quickly. If your bike has handbrakes, the levers should not touch the handlebars when fully applied. And the brake pad should be no more than one-eighth of an inch from the wheel rim.
Biking at night is much more dangerous than riding during the day. If you must ride after dark, make sure your bike has reflectors and a bright light on both the front and rear. Wear reflective clothing, and don't assume that motorists can see you. Young children should not ride at night.
Potholes, cracks, expansion joints, drainage grates, and railroad tracks can cause a fall. So can leaves, puddles, and ice. If you spot an obstacle in your path, be sure to plan carefully and signal to motorists. Cross railroad tracks at a 90-degree angle.
Ride on the right
Ride with traffic, in a straight, predictable path. Go single file if you're riding with others. Children under nine may not be very good at spotting dangers and riding predictably. They need close supervision.
Check for traffic
More than 70 percent of car-bicycle crashes occur at driveways or other intersections. Always check for traffic before entering an intersection - look left, then right, and then left again. Always signal before making a turn.
Obey traffic laws
Bicycles are vehicles, just like cars. The same rules apply. Always signal your moves and extend courtesy to other vehicles and to pedestrians. When possible, ride on bike paths and lanes rather than in regular traffic lanes.
Never wear headphones
Headphones keep you from hearing traffic - and horns.
Check those wheels
If your bike has quick-release wheels, make sure they are firmly closed - and use the safety retainer if there is one.