The following was written by Emily Devora Hops, UW MPH Student, Violence and Injury Prevention Unit, for the Seattle-King County Health Department blog, Public Health Insider:
When you are stressed out, what do you do to relax? Did you know that physical activity reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones? In fact, exercise releases brain chemicals that improves mood. During times of high stress, riding a bicycle is a great way to improve your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Biking can help you get to where you need to go and be a rejuvenating social activity to do with family, friends or alone.
Within King County, not everyone has the same access to safe places to ride, life-saving bicycle helmets, or at times even a bike itself. Here are some resources and information to help everyone in King County have a safe and stress-free bike ride this summer.
1. Pick a trail, bike park or pathway where you can maintain a six-foot distance from other people, or wear a mask.
Maintaining distance is still important to do when riding a bike. Whether you are exploring trails, bike parks or paths in the state of Washington, Bike Maps in Washington can help you plan your next bike ride or commute route. If you are biking where you cannot maintain a six-foot distance from others, wear a mask to protect against COVID-19.
2. Get a low-cost bicycle helmet.
One key to reducing bike-related injuries is simple: bicycle helmets. Before hopping on your bike, make sure that you have a properly fitting bike helmet. Bicycle helmets have protected bike riders time and time again from serious head injuries. That is why it is the law in King County that everyone riding a bike, regardless of age, has to wear a helmet.
If you don’t have a helmet, or your helmet is 5 or more years old, cracked, or does not fit properly, you are definitely due for a bicycle helmet upgrade! You can get a bicycle helmet for free or low cost at the following locations:
• Helmets R Us: Bulk helmet orders (minimum of 24 helmets per order). Prices start at $3.65 to $12.95 per helmet. Contact at (253) 627-2121 or https://helmetsrus.net/.
• Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority: Free helmets available for low income residents/families. By appointment only, please call ahead: (253) 856-4482. Address: 24611 116th Ave SE, Kent, WA 98030. Website: https://pugetsoundfire.org/
3. Check to be sure your bicycle helmet fits properly for the most protection.
Many of the low-cost helmet locations also provide free helmet fittings for children and adults. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are new rules about how staff conduct helmet fittings. Rather than the staff doing the fitting on you or your child, they will instruct you on how to make sure the helmet fits to give the most protection.
When a helmet fits properly:
• The straps fit around your ear and under your chin snugly.
• The straps form a “V” under your ears and leave enough room for one finger to fit between your chin and the strap.
• The helmet rests low on the forehead, no more than two finger widths above the eyebrows.
4. Check out the Bikeworks Bicycle Giveaway Program.
If you or your child want to ride a bike but the cost is too high, then Bikeworks can help! Bikeworks provides bicycle giveaways for youth and adults, with a helmet included. You can apply through their website www.bikeworks.org, or you can call 206-695-2416.
In King County, everyone should have the same opportunities to ride a bike for exercise or travel, safely and stress-free. Public Health’s Healthy Eating and Active Living Program encourages you to take advantage of these resources in King County to help you have a better bike ride. Learn more about bike helmets and bicycle safety to ride away your stress, safely!