Be safe when walking or bicycling

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With students heading back to school in Powell this week and also throughout the Big Horn Basin this month, there will be more foot traffic and bicycle traffic on local streets during weekday mornings and afternoons.

While walking or riding one’s bicycle is a source of enjoyment for many of us — not to mention a tradition for many schoolchildren — it is not without risks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,376 pedestrians and 818 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2015 — more than one-sixth of the 35,092 total motor vehicles fatalities that year.

The Centers for Disease Control stated that there were almost 129,000 pedestrians treated in emergency departments for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2015 and nearly 467,000 bicycle-related injuries. The CDC also stated that pedestrians are 50 percent more likely than those in passenger vehicles to be killed in an accident.

Those numbers are sobering, to say the least. So what can pedestrians and bicyclists — and drivers — do to ensure those on foot or on a bicycle stay safe?

First of all, cross the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection whenever possible. Also, heed crossing signals at stoplights — cross the street only when the signal says to do so. And drivers, yield to those pedestrians as they cross.

Second, always walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available, but if one isn’t available, walk on the shoulder of the street or road and facing traffic so you can see oncoming vehicles.

Third, when walking at night or during twilight, carry a flashlight and wear reflective, fluorescent and/or bright clothing to be visible to drivers. The same goes for bicyclists. From sundown to sunrise, being visible is not just courteous to those behind the wheel — it can save your life. Many of us have come too close for comfort to a pedestrian or a bicyclist who was hard to see because they were wearing dark clothing or not wearing reflective or bright clothing.

Fourth, make sure your bicycle is visible at night. In addition to having reflectors, it is also not a bad idea to have active lighting on a bicycle, such as front white lights, rear red lights or other lighting on the bicycle or even the bicyclist. At night, it’s all about being visible.

Finally, when riding a bicycle, wear a helmet. According to a study by Drs. Robert S. Thompson and Frederick P. Rivara, and Diane C. Thompson, bicycle helmets reduced the risk of head and brain injuries by 66 to 88 percent. New York City statistics stated that 74 percent of fatal bicycle crashes involved a head injury and that almost all — 97 percent — of bicyclists who died in accidents were not wearing a helmet.

Many of us enjoy heading out for a leisurely walk or bicycle ride, or we have children who walk or ride their bikes to school. But when walking or riding a bicycle, make sure to stay safe.

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