Summer is here and in neighborhoods everywhere children will be out riding their bikes. As motorists, we need to be extra vigilant in keeping our eyes open for kids on bikes. And as parents, we need to teach our little riders all about bike safety.
It is never too early to begin to teach bike safety. As soon as your child begins riding on wheels, they should be taught the safety rules to remember when they ride. The most important lesson they should learn is to always wear a helmet. Make it non-negotiable and help them develop this life-saving habit from a young age.
The right helmet matters!
Keep in mind that not just any helmet will do. Sport helmets were not designed for the same type of impact that occurs in a bike accident. Make sure that your child’s helmet fits properly, covering their forehead and not tipping back. The helmet should be in good condition with straps that securely fasten and no chips or cracks. When you are deciding on a helmet to purchase, look for a sticker that indicates it meets Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standards. And if a helmet is broken or damaged, it should be replaced immediately.
Choose proper footwear!
What your child wears on their feet is also important. They should never ride a bike with bare feet and the safest shoes for bike riding are athletic shoes that fit well with laces that are securely tied. Sandals and sliders do not grip the pedals well and your child may lose control of their bike if their feet slip off.
Is their bike the right size?
Make sure that the bike your child is riding is the appropriate size for them and that it is in good condition. The seat, handlebars, wheels and bike chain should be securely attached and not loose or wiggly. Check that the brakes work properly and that your child knows how to use them. Placing reflective stickers on their bike will help them be more visible to motorists.
Now it’s time to ride!
Once all their equipment is in order, they’re ready to go riding. Young children should never ride in or near a street without close adult supervision. Going on bike rides around the neighborhood together will give you the opportunity to teach them the rules of the road before they are ready to head out on their own.
Here are some of the bike safety rules you can teach your child:
- Watch out for rocks, holes, curbs and other obstacles that may cause you to crash.
- Watch with your eyes and listen with your ears for oncoming traffic. (Headphones should not be worn when you are riding your bike.)
- Stay on the sidewalk or in a bike lane if one is available. If you have to ride in the street, be sure to ride on the right side of the road.
- Watch extra carefully around driveways or in parking lots for cars that are backing up. When the white lights on the back of a car are lit up, watch out! That means they are backing up and you should get out of the way.
- If you need to cross the street, only do so at an intersection and never enter the street from behind a parked car or anything else that may obstruct your view of oncoming traffic and their view of you.
- Get off your bike and walk it across the street. Always look both ways before you cross. Look to the left, then to the right, and then back to the left again.
- If your child can safely do so, teach them how to use hand signals to signal their turns. (LEFT = left arm straight out; RIGHT = left arm bent at the elbow with the hand up; and, STOP = left arm bent at the elbow with the hand down.)
Are they ready to ride on their own?
When your child is old enough (usually around the age of ten) they may be ready to start taking bike rides on their own. By now you’ve had the chance to watch them practice bike safety rules and you can determine if they are ready to take a ride without you. Regularly remind your child of the rules they’ve learned and how important it is to always follow them. Make sure they know far they are allowed to go and if there are any streets that they are not allowed to ride on or cross over. Remind them that wearing a helmet and following bike safety rules are non-negotiable.
Bike riding is a fun way to get around in the summer and a great way to get some exercise. Accidents can be avoided if we all know and follow the rules of the road!