Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(10):2017-2018

Is bicycling good for you?

Yes, riding a bicycle is great exercise. It can help you get in shape and lose weight and it can reduce the risk of diseases like heart attacks. Bicycling puts less strain on your joints than jogging does, so bicycling is easier on your body.

What causes bicycle crashes?

Many things can cause bicycle crashes. Sometimes it can be your mistake, while at other times car drivers or loose gravel on the road are to blame. You are more likely to be seriously hurt if you run into a car or if you are riding fast. Children can be hurt while doing stunts on their bicycles. You also need to make sure that you don't get your fingers or toes caught in the spokes, and that the seat fits properly.

What kinds of injuries can riding my bicycle cause?

If you get in a wreck on your bicycle, you may end up with just a scrape or bruise. Sometimes you can get more serious injuries and need to see your doctor. Anyone with a head injury should see the doctor, even if the injury seems minor.

People who ride a bike a lot can get aches and pains from overdoing it. Resting for a few days and adjusting the bicycle can help.

What can I do to prevent being hurt?

The best way to protect your head and face is by wearing a helmet(see picture). Make sure your helmet meets government standards. All children and adults should wear helmets when they ride, even on short trips. This is now the law in some states. Wearing a pair of sports sunglasses can stop dust and bugs from getting into your eyes. Wearing bright, reflective clothing when you ride can make it easier for drivers to see you. You can use padded gloves to protect your hands and wear padded shorts and use a comfortable seat to reduce buttock pain. Parents should teach children basic traffic rules and make sure they ride in safe places. Children younger than 10 years of age should not ride near traffic.

How can I be sure my bike is safe?

It is always a good idea to make sure that everything on your bicycle is working right. Get in the habit of checking that the brakes are working, and be sure there are no loose or broken parts on your bike. Having reflectors and lights that work makes you much more visible to car drivers in the dark. Many books explain how to do this; your local bike store can often help, too.

What about child carrier seats?

If you ride with a child on your bicycle, you should use a special seat that fits behind the main seat. The child always needs to wear a helmet when riding with you. Also, make sure the bike has spoke guards to prevent the child's feet from getting caught in the spokes.

Useful Resources

These organizations are good sources of educational videos and guides. Some can also help you to set up bicycle safety campaigns in your community:

  • National Safe Kids Campaign

  • 1301 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Ste. 1000

  • Washington, DC 20004-1707

  • 1-202-662-0600;

  • Web address:

  • American Trauma Society

  • 8903 Presidential Pkwy., Ste. 512

  • Upper Marlboro, MD 20772-2656

  • 1-800-556-7890 or 1-301-420-4189

  • Web address:

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