In Beijing, many students live within walking or biking distance from their school. Readers might take inspiration from Walk and Bike to School Day (May 7). This annual event sponsored by the US Department of Transportation has two goals: to encourage exercise and educate the public about bike safety.
Many parents are worried about road safety and air pollution, and your kids should certainly know the rules of the road when cycling – especially if they’re riding on the street and not in a bike lane. A handful of studies directly compared the health effects of biking versus driving to school or work. They concluded that the benefits outweighed the risks from air pollution or accidents.
The largest study of this kind followed 67,000 female cyclists in Shanghai over five years and found lower incidences of heart disease, cancer, and premature death. It’s encouraging to read these findings about another city experiencing air pollution.
A good helmet is crucial to protect yourself in a bike accident. The foam padding can absorb most of the impact; unprotected cyclists are twice as likely to sustain brain or head trauma and four times more likely to die from their injuries. The right fit is crucial. A quick glance reveals that many people wear their helmets perched up too high, too low, or worse – unbuckled. Here are some basics:
Wear your helmet flat on your head. If it moves when you shake your head, you need to tighten your helmet or get a smaller one.
The helmet should sit low on your forehead, about two finger widths above your eyebrows.
With the helmet buckled, the straps should meet just below the ears.
When the helmet is fastened, you should be able to fit no more than two fingers between the buckle and chin.
Buy a brand with a good safety reputation. In the US, every model must be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission; look for the CPSC sticker inside the helmet. You may also see other stickers inside your helmet, including EN 1078 or EN 1080 – the European Union safety standard. You can find specifics on brands on websites like the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (www.bhsi.org) and Consumer Search (www.consumersearch.com).
More expensive does not mean safer; BHSI performed their own tests and found that a USD 10 helmet and a USD 200 helmet achieved the same results.
Need more info?
Dr. Richard Saint Cyr is a family doctor at Beijing United Family Hospital, and the director of clinical marketing and communications. He runs the blog www.myhealthbeijing.com.
Photo: Flickr user Elsa Mora.
This article originally appeared on p27 of the beijingkids May 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com