If you haven’t thought about bicycle safety for kids since before the training wheels came off, it might be time to revisit this important topic.
The bicycle gives parents one of those rare moments in life when we feel an equal mix of pride and fear. We’re proud of our kids for learning to ride and terrified that they’re going to run into a tree and break something. As they get older and move from the sidewalk into the road, they gain a bit of independence to go to the park or a friend’s house without an adult taking them.
Riding a bicycle is a great way to get outside, get some exercise, and have fun. As stressful as it is sometimes to watch our kids ride away, it’s less worrisome if you’ve talked about bicycle safety. For kids who love hopping onto two wheels, a few rules can help keep them safe.
Bicycle Safety for Kids:
Time-tested tips for safe adventuring
When it comes to bicycles and kids, there’s some bad news and some good news. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, bicycle accidents send approximately 26,000 children each year to the emergency room with head injuries, and about 100 kids age 19 and under die each year in bicycle accidents.
Those are some scary numbers, but overall safety trends seem promising. Since 1999, fatal biking accidents have gone down by 62% in children. Better yet, a study referenced by the non-profit helmets.org points out that riders of all ages can reduce the risk of a head or brain injury by up to 88% by wearing a helmet.
But there’s more to it than throwing a helmet on and hitting the streets. Proper bicycle safety for kids (and even adults who may need a reminder) is a holistic approach that includes everything from checking helmet fit to the rules of the road and even the clothes.
- Your child’s bike helmet should meet U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards. Look for a CPSC sticker.
- Make sure the helmet fits your child’s head properly. Most helmets have some degree of adjustability and should offer a snug fit. According to helmets.org, “The helmet should not move more than about an inch in any direction and must not pull off no matter how hard you try.
- Choose a bright color that will be easier for motorists to see.
- Your child should have a helmet on every time they get on a bike. Every time.
- Check that your child is comfortable on a bike. As they straddle the bike with both feet on the ground, there should be about 2 inches of clearance between them and the top bar.
- Check the air pressure in the tires.
- Check to make sure the brakes work correctly.
- Make sure the bike is sturdy and that the seat, handlebars, and wheels are securely attached.
- The bike should have front and back reflectors, as well as reflectors on each tire.
- Like the helmet, bright, colorful clothes are easier for motorists to see.
- Snug pant legs are ideal since loose pants or skirts could get caught in the bike chain or tires. Make sure shoelaces and backpack straps are short enough to avoid getting caught, as well.
- Sneakers are good for biking. Sandals, flip-flops, or bare feet offer little to no protection in the event of a crash.
- Never let your child wear earbuds or headphones while biking. They need to hear what is going on around them.
Rules of the road
- Bikers should always follow the rules of the road. Not only is it safer, but it’s also the law. This includes stopping at all stop signs and red lights.
- Ride in the same direction as traffic, not against it.
- Ride in bike lanes if they are available. If they aren't, try to avoid busy streets. Slow, quiet streets are always better for cyclists. If a child does need to cross at a busy intersection, it’s best to get off the bike and walk across.
- Ride single-file if there is more than one child biking.
- Don’t ride too close to parked cars if possible. A quickly opened car door is responsible for plenty of bicycle accidents.
- Practice riding in a straight line. Swerving left and right, especially when cars are present, is dangerous.
- Be alert for obstacles such as puddles, potholes, rocks, drainage grates, pedestrians, and even other bikers.
- Watch for cars backing out of driveways.
- Keep at least one hand, or preferably both hands, on the handlebars.
- Assume drivers cannot see bicyclists.
- Use hand signals to indicate a turn. Point the left arm out for a left turn and the right arm out for a right turn.
- Try not to ride at night, but if it is necessary, make sure your child is wearing bright clothing and paying extra attention to traffic.
By taking a few extra minutes to plan and go over safety tips, you can feel secure knowing your child knows how to be cautious on a bike. Happy biking!
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