School's out: Remember bicycle safetyby jmaloni
by the Allstate Insurance Co.
Millions of Americans are taking advantage of the warm weather by leaving their cars behind and hopping onto their bikes. However, while cycling is a great pastime for people of all ages, bicycles have become a major target of thieves, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Almost 200,000 bicycles were stolen in the U.S. in 2011, according to the FBI's most recent statistics, and most of them were never seen again. With the increasing popularity of bicycling as a sport and as a means of transportation, bike thefts are on the rise. Bicycles are stolen most often in densely populated areas such as cities and suburbs, but university and college towns are another hot spot; in fact bicycle thefts represent over half the property crimes on campus.
Bicycles are covered under the personal property section of standard homeowners and renters insurance. This coverage will reimburse you, minus your deductible, if your bike is stolen or damaged in a fire, hurricane or other disaster listed in your policy.
Adults are not the only ones hitting the roadways with their bicycles, as many younger riders will be using their two-wheel transportation with school out for the summer.
"Although kids might not see it this way, a bike is a vehicle, not a toy," says Allstate spokesperson in New York Jaclyn Darrohn. "Riding a bike can be tremendous fun, but it can also be dangerous. Parents who teach their kids a few simple bike safety rules will go a long way in protecting their kids' safety.
Review the following bike safety tips with your children:
•Use your head - wear a helmet! Most bike-related deaths result from head injuries. Kids can prevent most serious head injuries by wearing a bike helmet. Children learn by example, so it's important that parents practice good bike safety habits and wear a helmet themselves when they ride.
•Look in all directions before entering or crossing a street. Most crashes between a car and a bike happen at intersections and driveways, so keep your eyes open when entering these areas. Look out, too, for parked cars. Drivers in parked cars could pull into traffic or open their doors into a bike rider's path.
•Ride in the direction of traffic. Riders should stay on the right side of the street near the curb and walk their bicycles across busy streets.
•Be visible. Kids should attach a fluorescent-colored flag on a flexible pole to their bike and wear brightly colored helmets and clothes to make themselves more visible. Kids should not ride their bikes at night.
•Make sure the bike fits. Riding a bike that's too big or too small makes it easier for a child to lose control and become injured. Check with a local bike shop to have your child fitted to his or her bike.
•Protect your bike. Just as you would with your car, have your kids lock their bikes when they leave them. The best protection against bike theft is a chain and lock.