Summer means ice cream and fireflies, cooking out, playing outside and bicycling. Riding bikes was such a vital part of my childhood memory. We want our kids to be out of doors and enjoying the break from school, biking to see friends or going on family bike rides.
Our job as parents is to make sure our children understand the rules of bicycle safety and that they’re wearing their helmets. Scraped knees, bumps and bruises are part of being a kid. We can’t protect our children from every little accident but we can do a great deal to make sure they are safe when bicycling.
The most important safety tool for bicycling is a helmet that fits properly and meets the Consumer Product Safety Standard. According to the NHTSA, wearing a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of brain injury and head injury by as much as 85 percent. The statistics show that only 25% of children ages 5 to 14 are wearing helmets, whereas for teen riders it’s almost zero percent. Read more from the NHTSA here.
A properly fitting helmet should be snug, worn level on the head without tilting back on the head or sitting low on the forehead. The chinstrap, made strong enough to sustain an impact, should be firmly fastened to ensure that helmet doesn’t move from side to side or slip up and down. Read how to fit a bike helmet here.
Second in importance is making sure the bicycle is sized for your child. Have your child stand over the bicycle. According to the NHTSA, there should be 1 to 2 inches between your child and the top bar if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if a mountain bicycle. The seat should be level front to back. The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.
Your next step is to teach children bicycle safety tips. The NHTSA has bicycle safety advice and activities geared to the age of your child. Tips include:
- Don’t wear loose fitting pants or have drawstrings or shoelaces that might get caught in the gears.
- Don’t carry things in your hands; keep both hands on the wheels. Use a basket or backpack to carry items.
- Be alert to things in the road like broken glass, rocks or potholes that might cause the bike to fall over.
- Wear brightly colored clothes. For night riding wear a reflective vest or strip on clothing. It’s important to remember that just because you can see a car doesn’t mean they can see you.
Our children look up to us and they copy our behavior. It’s part of our duty to teach them the rules of bicycle safety and to show them, by example, the importance of staying safe.
Rules of the Road
If your child is allowed to ride on the street, he should follow these road rules:
- Always ride with your hands on the handlebars.
- Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving your driveway, an alley, or a curb.
- Cross at intersections. When you pull out between parked cars, drivers can’t see you coming.
- Walk your bike across busy intersections using the crosswalk and following traffic signals.
- Ride on the right-hand side of the street, so you travel in the same direction as cars do. Never ride against traffic.
- Use bike lanes or designated bike routes wherever you can.
- Don’t ride too close to parked cars. Doors can open suddenly.
- Stop at all stop signs and obey traffic (red) lights just as cars do.
- Ride single-file on the street with friends.
- When passing other bikers or people on the street, always pass to their left side, and call out “On your left!” so they know that you are coming.