If You Crash While Riding, Here’s What To Do

Whether logging training miles or just going for a leisurely bike ride, there is risk involved with riding a bike. This risk is rare, and being observant of your surroundings can keep you safe the majority of the time. However, there are times when you may find yourself in trouble, so I’ve compiled a list of things to keep in mind if this happens.

  1. Find a safe area. Move to the side of the bike path or road. Crawl if you have to, but remove yourself from the path of danger.
  2. If you are injured or in a life-threatening situation, call 911. This is also important if you cannot be seen by oncoming traffic.
  3. Don’t panic. Your adrenaline will likely be rushing. Resist the temptation to get up and ride away. Take a few deep breaths so that you can assess the situation calmly.
  4. Check your head. If you are in a safe location, check your head for any injuries (bumps, bruises, gashes, feelings of disorientation). Also, check your helmet for any signs of impact.
  5. Check your body. If you think you’re seriously injured, do not move any more than you have to except to ensure you’re in a safe location. Then, call 911. Next, start with your arms and legs to check for any gashes or exposed wounds (road rash will likely be a given) and whether you can move those extremities.
  6. Check your bike. If you are relatively uninjured and think you’ll be able to continue riding, remember to check your bike. Check your wheels for alignment and tires for air. Determine if there’s any structural damage to the frame. Also, check to ensure that your brakes still work. This helpful checklist from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety can help you determine if your bicycle is working properly.
  7. Tend to your injuries (and your bike). Once you’re home safely, clean and triage your injuries immediately. If there are any questions about your injuries, it’s always best to be seen by a local urgent care or emergency room. Often, they may see/catch things that you haven’t noticed. Before riding again, have your bike examined by a local bike shop.
  8. Buy a new helmet. Bike helmets are typically rated for only one impact. Even if it was just a small crash or spill, it could be less effective in the next crash if the structure is compromised.
  9. Heal. There is no need to get back on the road again quickly if you’ve been injured. It’s natural to want to return quickly to the adrenaline of riding and the wind in your face, but give yourself time to heal. Most importantly, riding while injured could cause another crash to happen more easily. Safety is important — both in the moment and on future rides.

I am not a medical professional. All information in this blog is based on my experience handling bicycle injury cases, as well as being an avid cyclist myself. For medical opinions, please seek the advice of a physician.