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University Police offer bicycle safety tips

April 6, 2012

With spring in the air, more are taking to the roads on bicycles to get to class, run errands and just to get exercise in the fresh air.

With that in mind, Northern Illinois University has some tips to protect your ride as well as keep yourself safe.

NIU Police Sgt. Alan Smith says because it only takes a few moments to steak a bike, it’s best to lock it even if you step away from it for a moment.

“Protect your investment,” he says. “Many people lock expensive bikes with cheap locks. Investing money in a quality lock can prevent the loss of investment.”

NIU Public Safety offers the following additional bike theft prevention tips:

  • Always lock your bike, even if you’re just leaving it for a few minutes. Lock your bike to a bike rack, or other immovable object, in a well-lit area.
  • Use a good quality lock such as a hardened alloy, U-shaped lock.
  • Use quick-release tires or bike seats.
  • Always remove or secure your components and accessories.
  • Register your bike or other valuables with the NIU Department of Police & Public Safety and use its engraving equipment.

NIU’s Department of Police and Public Safety is conveniently located at 375 Wirtz Drive (next to the Health Services Building). For more information, call (815) 753-1212.

Engraving helps in the return of recovered bicycles, Smith says.

“The NIU Police Department recovers many bikes throughout the year,” he says. “When bikes are registered with the police department, they can be reunited with their owners. Those not registered often are sold in the annual police auction because we have no way of identifying their owners.”

Additionally, the Illinois Secretary of State offers the following bicycle safety tips:

  • Make sure your bike is equipped for safety and working properly. Every bike should have the required reflectors. Check the brakes often to see that they are working. The seat and handlebars should be securely attached and properly adjusted.
  • Wearing a helmet may prevent you from being seriously injured in an accident.
  • Keep both hands on the handlebars. Use a backpack or a bike carrier to hold your books, lunch or other items. Ride slower on wet streets, loose gravel or bumpy roads.
  • Ride single file. Do not ride next to each other if possible.
  • Always ride one to a bike. Your bike is harder to balance with another person on it, and a passenger may block your view of what’s around you.
  • Ride as close to the right edge of the road as practical. Certain conditions allow a bicyclist to move farther to the left if necessary, such as broken glass, drain grates, parked cars, left turns and passing.
  • Ride in the same direction as other traffic, not against traffic.
  • Slow down at intersections and railroad crossings to ensure it is safe to cross.
  • Avoid riding at night. If you must ride in the dark, the law requires that your bike have a front light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet and a rear red reflector visible for up to 600 feet. Always wear white and/or reflective clothing when riding at night.

Smith says that it is particularly important to protect the head by wearing a helmet: “Protecting your head with a good helmet can mean the difference between life and death, a serious headache or serious injuries.”

While the common-sense safety tips seem simple, often times people forget that the rules of the road apply to bicycles as well as automobiles.

“Obey the rules of the road and yield the right of way to pedestrians,” Smith says. “Don’t run into them.”