Bicycle Safety Starts With Mom and Dad

Filed under: Health & Safety: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Development: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Activities: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Development: Big Kids, Education: Big Kids, Activities: Big Kids, Health & Safety: Tweens

Helmets are a must. Credit: Corbis

From training wheels to 10-speeds, make sure your kids know the rules of the road when it comes to bicycle safety. Here's some advice every family should heed before hitting the streets.

When to start: Young children should learn to ride and be comfortable on a tricycle before moving up to a two-wheeled bike. This helps establish the basics of balance and will help ensure they are comfortable riding outdoors. A first bicycle should be small enough that the child's feet can touch the ground when seated. Training wheels are a good way to help a child learn to ride with a minimum amount of scrapes and bruises.

Choosing the right bike: To determine the proper fit for a bike, straddle the bicycle and measure the distance from the body to the top bar. For a road bike, the distance should measure 1 to 2 inches. Mountain bike riders should have at least 3 to 4 inches clearance. Seats should be level front to back and the height should be adjusted to allow for a slight bend at the knee when feet are on the ground. Handlebars should be at the same level as the seat. Tires should be inflated to the recommended pressure and the brakes should be checked to ensure they are working properly.

Wear a helmet: One of the most important safety measures your child can take when riding a bike is to wear a helmet. According to statistics, non-helmeted bike riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than riders wearing a helmet. While there is no federal law regarding the use of bicycle helmets, some states and localities have adopted laws requiring they be worn by children. Check your state's laws here.

Bright colors: In addition to a helmet, riders should wear wear neon, fluorescent or other bright colors to increase visibility. Pant legs should fit snugly enough to avoid being caught in the chain and shoes should be closed-toe and have soles that can grip the pedals.

Safety accessories: Bikes should always be outfitted with a working headlight and safety reflectors. Night riding should be avoided when possible, but even when riding in daylight, lights and reflectors makes it easier for cars to see and avoid bike riders.

On the road: Always keep at least one hand on the handlebars and maintain a constant awareness of surroundings. Never wear headphones, stand up or share a seat on a bicycle. Bicyclists should never, ever hitch a ride on a moving vehicle.

Pay attention: Riders should always be on the lookout for road hazards such as potholes, debris, parked cars and animals. Always ride in the same direction as cars and line up single file when riding in groups. Riders should stop at all stop signs and obey all traffic signals just as cars do. Walk bikes across busy intersections and look both ways when leaving driveways, alleys or parking areas.

Stay in your lane:
Use bike lanes when possible and avoid riding too close to parked cars. When passing other riders or pedestrians, riders should always call out "on your left " and then proceed to pass on the left. Riders should always look behind them before changing lanes and use the following hand signals prior to making turns or stopping:

  • Left turn: Hold left arm straight out to the left and proceed slowly.
  • Stop: Bend left arm so that it is pointing downward in an upside down "L" shape and come to a stop.
  • Right turn: Bend left arm so that it is pointing up in an "L" shape and proceed slowly. Alternately, the right arm can be held straight out from the side to indicate a right turn.
The best way parents can ensure that their children ride safely is to set a good example. Wear your helmet and follow the rules and your children will, too.

Related: Are Bike Trailers Safer Than Bike Seats?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.