The warm spring and summer months draw many children to the sidewalks and streets to ride their bicycles. Before children head outside to ride their bikes, their parents should make sure that they have a solid understanding of bicycle safety and the rules they must follow. Bicycle accidents injure many children each year.
According to a study that was published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, 2.2 million children from ages five to 17 were treated in emergency departments between 2006 and 2015 for bicycle accident injuries. This is equivalent to 25 injuries requiring hospital care every day. Stanford Children’s Health reports that an average of 100 children are killed in bicycle accidents each year, and more than 254,000 are injured.
Many children injured in bicycle accidents either do not wear bicycle helmets or place themselves in dangerous situations. Children tend to view themselves as being invincible and fail to recognize dangers in the same way that adults do, making it critical for adults to talk about bicycle safety with their children.
Riding bicycles is an excellent activity for families during the summer since it incorporates togetherness with physical fitness. Keeping children free from injuries requires that parents teach them how to take proper safety measures. Accidents will still happen when children ride bikes, but following appropriate safety tips can help children reduce the risk of being seriously injured or killed in a collision.
Always wear a properly fitted, safe bicycle helmet.
Teach your children to wear fitted, safe bicycle helmets every time they decide to ride their bicycles. While no specific standard for bicycle helmets exists, look for a helmet that meets the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Snell, or the American Society of Testing and Materials. Parents should look at the helmets to see if they have a CPSC, Snell, or ASTM rating listed on them before they purchase them. The helmet should also properly fit their children. According to the National Safety Council, wearing a properly fitted bicycle helmet while riding reduces the risk of suffering serious injuries by up to 50%. Teach your children that it does not matter whether they want to ride down the sidewalk to visit a neighbor or back and forth to school when deciding whether to wear a bicycle helmet. Children should learn to always put on their helmets and fasten them correctly before they are allowed to ride.
Parents should make sure that the helmets they purchase fit their children correctly and are made for bicycle riding. Bicycle helmets are designed to protect children and adults from head-first falls. Helmets will not work correctly if they do not fit. If the helmet can be moved from side to side, it needs to be adjusted. Your child’s helmet should feel level and fit solidly on your child’s head. If your child has a crash, you will need to replace his or her bicycle helmet. Helmets are designed to protect children during one crash and should be tossed after one occurs.
Wear other personal protective equipment.
In addition to a properly fitted, safe helmet, your children should also wear some additional types of personal protective equipment that adults might forgo. Children are not as steady on their bicycles and can benefit from wearing bicycle gloves with wrist guards, elbow guards, and knee guards. These types of PPE can help to prevent some common scrapes, abrasions, and other injuries that can happen if your child crashes on his or her bicycle. If your child complains, remind him or her that wearing proper safety gear is mandatory before he or she can ride a bicycle.
Wear appropriate clothing while riding.
Whenever your child rides a bicycle, you should remember that other motorists may not be able to see them very easily. Motorists generally look for other vehicles on the road and might fail to see children on bicycles. To help keep your children visible, make sure that they always wear brightly colored clothing when they ride their bicycles. Consider attaching reflective tape to the clothing that they wear, and attach reflectors and lights to the front and back of their bicycles.
Do not let your children ride their bicycles when they are wearing loose-fitting, baggy clothing. This type of clothing can get caught in their bicycles’ chains and cause them to have bicycle accidents. They should similarly wear proper shoes with closed-toes and good tread. Wearing good shoes while riding bicycles can help children to avoid toe injuries. If you can, try to make your child wear long sleeves to help to protect him or her from road rash if he or she falls from his or her bicycle. Children should never wear flip-flops or heeled shoes while riding bicycles.
Make sure your children’s bicycles fit them.
Bicycles come in many sizes, styles, and colors. You should make sure that your children’s bicycles fit their styles, skill levels, and sizes. You should not purchase a bicycle with the idea that your child will grow into it. It is better to purchase a bicycle that fits your child’s current height and upgrade it as he or she grows. To check whether a bicycle fits your child, make sure that he or she can remain seated with his or her feet flat on the ground. The bicycle’s handlebars should not be higher than your child’s shoulders. As your child grows, purchase a new bicycle and consider donating his or her old bike to charity for other children to enjoy.
Complete a safety check before your child goes for a ride.
Each time before your child goes for a ride on his or her bicycle, you should check to ensure that the handlebars, seat, and tires are in good shape and are properly adjusted. The bicycle should not have any loose or degraded parts. Make sure to take a look at the chain and test the brakes. Check the air pressure in the tires, and add air if necessary. Teach your children how to perform a safety check to help them to develop good bicycle riding habits and to keep them safe.
Help your child to understand the importance of remaining aware.
Children are less likely to remain aware of their surroundings while riding bicycles than adults. Just like you have to teach children to look both ways before crossing the street, you should similarly teach them to watch what is going on around them while they ride bicycles. Set clear rules for your child about where he or she is allowed to ride his or her bicycle and how far away from home he or she is allowed to ride.
If your child will ride his or her bicycle on the street, you should accompany him or her if he or she is not at least 10 years old. Bicycle paths are a better option for children since cars are not present. However, if your child will ride his or her bicycle on a path, teach him or her to watch for sticks, rocks, other people, dogs, and faster cyclists to avoid these types of obstacles. Make sure that your child understands that bicycle paths must be shared and that they must respect other bicyclists and walkers.
Model good bicycling etiquette and provide appropriate supervision.
When you ride your bicycle with your children, you should always use good bicycling etiquette. Make sure that you wear proper safety gear and clothing, and perform a safety check of your bicycle before you ride. Children emulate the behavior of their parents, including the behavior they demonstrate while riding bicycles. You should also provide proper supervision of your children. Good supervision begins by ensuring that your children have the proper equipment and check their bicycles before they ride.
Teach the rules of the road.
Children younger than 10 should generally not be allowed to ride on the roads. However, if your child is mature enough and old enough to take his or her bicycle out on the road, make sure that he or she understands the following road rules:
- Ride in the same direction as traffic and never against it.
- Before exiting a driveway, stop and look for cars and trucks in both directions.
- Obey all traffic control devices and stop signs.
- Use hand signals to signal when you intend to turn.
- Use bicycle lanes and routes whenever they are available.
- Be careful when approaching cars parked alongside the road and watch out for car doors.
Bicycle accidents can happen anywhere, including in your driveway, on a sidewalk, on a bicycle path, or in the street. Helping your children to always be prepared and aware of their surroundings can help them to avoid suffering serious injuries if they have a bicycle crash. Teaching your children to prioritize safety at all times can help them to enjoy riding bicycles while remaining safe.