DEAR ABBY: Thank you for the safety tips you offered to "Curious in Indiana," who bikes alone. As a female cyclist and mother of a biking daughter, I agree that telling her parents her riding plan (or leaving a descriptive note), and carrying a cell phone are good measures. In addition, she should dress like a boy! Leave the cute little tops for when she's riding with a large group, and instead, wear a bright, high-visibility T-shirt or jersey that can catch a motorist's eye but doesn't shout "female!" from half a mile away.
"Curious" should also be constantly aware of her surroundings. This assumes no headphones, and means she'll know what vehicles are approaching from front and rear and who is in them. She should be ready if a dog runs out, and know if a storm is imminent. A family password is also a good idea, so no stranger can impersonate a "caring messenger" and get too close. -- HAPPY TRAILWINDS IN WISCONSIN
DEAR HAPPY: Thank you! I received a slew of letters and e-mails from readers eager to offer additional safety tips to that girl. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: You forgot one very important tip. Wear a bike helmet! If she fell and hit her head on one of those lonely country roads, it could mean the difference between life and death. -- AVID BICYCLIST IN SACRAMENTO
DEAR ABBY: Your suggestions were good, but it might also be wise for that girl to carry Mace or pepper spray for protection if it can be used legally in her state. -- KATHLEEN IN TITUSVILLE, PA.
DEAR ABBY: Please remind every bike rider to wear reflective clothing, and ensure that their bike has front and back lights. Most important, they need to observe the rules of the road. A bike is just like a car and needs to stop at lights and signs. It will help that 13-year-old ensure her own safety. -- WALTER J., SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
DEAR ABBY: "Curious in Indiana" should check to see if there are any bicycle groups nearby. It's a great way to find like-minded teens and instant friends.
In the '70s, as a bike leader for the American Youth Hostels, I was trained in first aid and bike repair -- both of which I used on the long-distance trips I led. (That was in the days before cell phones.) As a mom today, I'd prefer that my daughter was not alone on the road. -- DR. J., KALAMAZOO, MICH.
DEAR ABBY: She should be sure to carry water, as well as some form of ID when she rides. It should include her name, her city or town, home phone number or the number where her parents can be reached, her blood type, and any allergies or medical conditions. (The information can be worn around her neck, engraved on a bracelet or attached to her shoe.) -- MELODY IN IRVINE, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: That cyclist should make sure she knows how to change her own flat tire, and carry all the tools necessary to do so every time she rides. (She should always check to be sure the glue in her patch kit hasn't dried out.) The more she can learn about "out-there repair," the less chance she'll have of being stranded somewhere she'd rather not be. -- FELLOW CYCLIST, LEMONT, PA.
DEAR ABBY: My son, who is the same age, rides his bike and hikes in an area where cell phones are not reliable. We gave him a walkie-talkie with a seven-mile radius, and it's much cheaper than a cell phone. -- COUNTRY MOM, STEVENS POINT, WIS.