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Editorial: Avoid road rage, pedal properly

Whether motoring or biking, people on-the-go should beware of some pitfalls that could affect personal well-being.

Motorists may encounter bullies on the roads, causing drivers to fear for their safety and, at times, even their lives. American Family Insurance Group reminds the motoring public to ask themselves if they're aggressive drivers and consider the following questions:

--Do you tailgate slower vehicles to encourage them to speed up or get out of your way?

--Do you weave in and out of heavy traffic to "make better time"?

--Do you make inappropriate gestures, honk your horn or flash your headlights at drivers who are not meeting your standards?

--Do you push yellow lights to the point they sometimes turn red before you are all the way through the intersection?

If the answer is "yes" to any of the above, it may be time to rethink driving behavior. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates two-thirds of traffic fatalities are at least partly caused by aggressive driving. For one's own safety and the safety of others, drive smart and don't let the road bullies take over.

Remember, one can't control traffic, but can control reactions to it. Assume other drivers' mistakes aren't personal; everyone has bad days. Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver isn't.

If another driver poses a challenge, avoid eye contact and move out of the way. Driving isn't a game and never underestimate the other driver's capacity for mayhem. Under no circumstances should a driver pull off on the side of the road to try and straighten out the situation.

Report aggressive driving behavior to the appropriate authorities by providing a vehicle description, license plate number, location and direction of travel.

In summary, maintain composure when driving. Don't try to make others do what it's wanted for them to do or retaliate against someone who's driving recklessly. Courtesy is contagious.

Bicyclists ride for numerous reasons, but whether it's an adrenaline rush, travel to nearby destinations, taking in the scenery or staying active and healthy, there are many benefits everyone can enjoy. TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) offers the following tips:

--Type. Before selecting a bike, it's important to determine how it will be used--on a paved road, off-road or both. Mountain bikes have a robust frame and wide, knobby tires to withstand dirt, rocky trails, and other off-road terrain. Road bikes are generally lighter in weight with a thin frame and tires to support speed on pavement. Hybrid bikes offer the best of both worlds, combining aspects from both mountain and road bikes to accommodate light off-road riding and faster cycling on paved paths.

--Size. When choosing a bike, make sure the frame is appropriate. To find the right fit, straddle the bike and stand flatfooted. There should be at least one inch of clearance between the groin and the top tube on road and hybrid bikes, and two inches on mountain bikes. It's also essential to consider the seat height. The knee should be slightly bent when the pedal is at the bottom of its rotation. To check the distance between the seat and the handlebars, ask someone to hold the bike steady while sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebars. The feeling should be comfortable and relaxed.

--Bike riding. Always wear a helmet to protect from head trauma and prevent brain injury. Start slowly, beginning with short rides, then adding miles, increasing intensity and taking on hillier terrain gradually. Establish varied routes to keep interest peaked, giving different scenery and offering new challenges. Improve technique by, for example, instead of pushing down with one foot and relying on the opposing foot to carry through the swing while pedaling, push down with one foot and pull up with the other to make a circular motion. Don't squeeze the brakes too hard and never clutch the front brake first. Remember to brake before a turn, not during, and pedal through for more control. While making a sharp turn, stop pedaling with the foot at the top of the swing to avoid scraping the pedal on the pavement. To climb a hill, shift up a few gears and stay seated as long as possible to keep the core engaged.