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May is Bike Month
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The beautiful spring weather we have had lately has been great for the bicycling. Several years ago we decided to bike to work and run our close-to-home errands by bike. It only takes 5 minutes longer to ride to work and there are several benefits. The health benefits of exercise and saving at the pump are the main ones that come to mind.
As you and your family members dust off your bicycles for another season, don’t forget to purchase a helmet to wear when riding. More than 60 percent of deaths attributed to bicycle accidents are caused by head injuries. Safety experts suggest that as many as 75 percent of the bicycle related fatalities involving children could be prevented with a bicycle helmet.
Consider a helmet a necessity, rather than an extra. Without a helmet, riders who sustain an injury are 14 times more likely to become a fatality. Choose a helmet that is specifically designed for bicycling, rather than a multi-sports helmet. Choose one that meets or exceeds safety standards established by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Make sure the helmet fits, rather than one a child will grow into. Replace the helmet if an accident occurs or if the helmet is badly jarred or cracked.  
While we are on the subject of safe bicycling, please remind the riders in your family of the following rules of the road:
* Ride with the traffic, rather than facing the traffic.
* Use the bicycle lane or ride next to the curb.
* Obey traffic signals.
* Stay alert and keep your mind on your riding.
Many parents ask at what age a child is old enough to ride in the street rather than on the sidewalk. There is not a one-size-fits-all age. A child’s maturity level is a factor. Other factors are the size of the community, traffic patterns and congestion, and whether it is a residential area or a business district. A smaller community can seem peaceful and safe, but may have periods when safety is compromised - for example, after a ball game, during a community festival, or at harvest time.  
Last but not least, make sure that you perform periodic bicycle maintenance on the families bikes. Checking tire pressure and condition, lubricating key places, checking brakes, pedals, lights or reflectors is also recommended.
Mark your calendar for May 7th and encourage your school age kids to walk or bike to school that day. Then on Friday, May 16th bike to work day is celebrated. When you find out how much fun it is and how good it makes you feel you may experience a positive lifestyle change! Celebrate bike month by riding as much as you can.
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at: (620)793-1910 or   K-State Research & Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.