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Leisure

Teaching Your Child Bicycle Safety

Biking is fun and great exercise! Being in the open air on two wheels is a very liberating feeling. But bicycling can be and is dangerous for the thousands of bikers who are injured each year while riding their bikes.

Teaching your child about bicycle safety may not guarantee their safety, but it can prevent needless mishaps and even serious injury.

Children do not always think in terms of safety. They may not realize how much harm can be done by not knowing or following safety rules. When your child starts asking for a “real bike” it is time to begin teaching them about bicycle safety. Share these rules with your child:

Rule Number 1: Always wear a helmet. The helmet must meet safety standards and fit properly. Helmets need to be worn level and should cover the forehead. Many children wear their helmets tipped back, but this is not correct. Make sure the strap is fastened. Letting the straps hang down will not give your head any protection when and if it needs it.

Rule Number 2: Make sure your bike is the right size for you and is in good repair. Straddle your bike with both feet touching the ground. There should be about 1 to 3 inches between you and the bar. Check the wheels for air pressure and the brakes to make sure they work. The chain should be oiled regularly. Handle bars and seat need to be checked to make sure they are not loose.

Rule Number 3: Dress for safety. Wear bright clothes so you can be seen by motorists. Put reflectors on the wheels, and in the front and rear of your bike. Your shoes should have closed toes. Never wear sandals or shoes with high heels, And never go barefoot. Make sure nothing is loose or long enough to reach the wheels or get in your way, such as skirts, pant legs or shoelaces. You need to be able to hear sounds around you including car horns so never use headphones or earpods when riding.

Rule Number 4: Ride only where it is safe. Make sure your parents know where you will be. Never go farther than the limits they have set for you. Avoid areas that are bumpy or slippery. Gravelly areas can make you lose control, causing wipeouts. If a hill is too steep to go down safely, get off to walk your bike until the slope levels out. Be careful of curbs and drainage ditches. If you are unsure of the surface you are on, slow down.

Rule Number 5: Know the Rules of the Road and always follow them. Stop and check for traffic at all crossings. Look both ways twice. Don’t take chances. It is safer to wait. Keep your hands on the bars. Never do any stunt riding while on the road. Cross at street crossings only. If an intersection is very busy, get off to walk your bike until on the other side. If bike lanes are available, use them. Stay away from parked cars. Pass people and other bikers on their left. Warn them by calling out, ”On your left”. No one under 10 should ride on a road or street without a parent.

Rule Number 6: Learn and use proper hand signals. Left turns require the left hand pointing straight out from your side. Right hand turns can be made 2 ways, either by pointing the left hand up at a right angle to your body parallel to the ground or by using the right arm pointing straight out to the right. To signal a stop, use the left hand pointing down with the arm bent at a ninety degree angle. Motorists must respect your signals, so use them well in advance of the turn.

These rules are universal and will help your child ride safely. Considerations more specific to your child’s age and development follow.

Preschool

All young children want to ride a bike! Starting your toddler out on a tricycle will prepare them for a two-wheeler when they are bigger.

Preschoolers need helmets too. They come in many different designs and colors. Let your little one pick out their helmet. They will be more enthusiastic about wearing it if they have chosen it.

Always walk alongside your child when they are riding. Stick to the sidewalk or park trail. Make sure your child can hear you and that they are in the habit of listening to your warnings should you need to get them to stop in a hurry.

Never allow your child to coast or freewheel down a steep embankment. They may have seen stunts on the television and do not yet know the dangers of gravity!

Main points to address:

  • Your child needs a well-fitting helmet, even on their tricycle.
  • Supervise your preschooler when they ride. Stay close.
  • Use the sidewalk, never the road.
  • Be careful of embankments. Never let your child freewheel down a hill.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age children are very eager to start riding a two-wheeler. Getting the first real bike has become a milestone for many cultures! Most kids are not ready to ride a bicycle until they are 6 or 7. At this time they are beginning to be able to manage balancing while pumping hard enough to move the bike forward and steering at the same time. Learning to use the brakes is a challenge, too. There are a lot of things to coordinate all at once while learning.

Some parents teach their children to ride a bicycle by attaching training wheels to the bike. This provides some stability while they are learning to keep balance. But many children around the world learn without them.

As soon as your child is up and fairly stable, they will be able to ride in a safe area such as a park, driveway, or a sidewalk in good repair. They still need your supervision.

Once they are able to stay up with ease, use the brakes without trouble, and can manage hand signals while riding, you can go out together in a safe area. Ride behind your child but within earshot. Make sure you have developed a system of communication should you need to warn your child of danger.

You may be able to find a bike safety class or “bike rodeo” in your area. This is a good time to learn bike safety rules.

Main points to address:

  • Most kids are ready for a two-wheeler by age 6 or 7.
  • Make sure your child can balance and stop before venturing out.
  • Ride in a safe area with a smooth surface and no traffic.
  • Develop a system of communication when you are riding together.
  • This is the best time to learn bike safety rules.

Grades 4-6th

Older children have probably ridden enough to consider themselves pros! They still need reminders to ride safely and to use common sense. Depending on where you live, your neighborhood may have a safe area for your child. Most children this age are not ready to ride away from their immediate neighborhoods.

Kids love to practice stunts on their bikes. Building a small ramp or creating a trail for them to ride on will keep them from more dangerous activities. If your child truly loves biking, you may want to find a kid’s biking club for them to join.

Biking as a family can provide enjoyment for everyone. Many cities have bike paths or trails where riding is safe. Each biker needs a helmet. Take along a water bottle and stop every now and then to appreciate the scenery.

Sharing bicycle safety rules with your child can save him or her from serious injury or worse. Knowing you have done your job will help you relax as they venture out on two wheels.

Main points to address:

  • Children this age still need safe places to ride.
  • Build a simple ramp or series of them on a trail so your older child can do stunts safely.
  • Biking as a family can provide hours of enjoyment on wheels.

Resources
Resources that can help you in your venture include:

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