For every kid, getting a bike is a rite of passage. And while you want your children to enjoy this new-found freedom, you also want to ensure their safety.
“More children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport,” said Jill Lucas-Drakeford, a Carilion Clinic community health educator and the coordinator for Safe Kids Southwest Virginia.
Before you let your child head out on that shiny, new bike follow a few of these simple safety tips.
Find the Right Fit
Purchase a bike that is the right size for your child. This is not the time to save a few bucks and buy something that your child will grow into. Your child’s feet should be able to touch the ground when sitting on the bicycle seat.
Wear a Helmet
“A helmet is the single most effective safety device available to reduce head injuries and death from bicycle crashes,” explained Lucas-Drakeford. “A helmet that correctly fits your child’s head can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent.”
Bring your child along when you purchase the helmet to ensure a proper fit. Letting your child pick out the helmet will also help ensure that he will wear it.
For a great fit, follow these tips:
- The helmet should sit level on your child’s head and low on the forehead.
- You should only be able to put two fingers between your child’s eyebrows and the top of the helmet.
- The side strap should make a Y underneath the ear and the buckle should be centered under the chin for a secure fit.
- Once the helmet is buckled, you should not be able to fit more than one or two fingers under the strap.
- The helmet should pull down on your child’s head when your child’s mouth is open very wide. If not, tighten the chin strap.
- Look for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s certification label inside the helmet.
“Remember that your child watches everything you do, so be a role model and make sure you wear a helmet too,” added Lucas-Drakeford.
Before letting your child take off, make sure the bike’s reflectors are secure, the brakes work properly, the gears shift smoothly and the tires are tightly secured and properly inflated. And take a look at your child’s clothing.
“Avoid sandals or flip flops as well as long or loose clothing, which can easily get caught in the chain or wheel spokes,” said Lucas-Drakeford. “Dress your child in sneakers and bright colored clothing for better visibility.”
Rules of the Road
It can be hard for many children to judge the speed and distance of cars, so limit riding to bike paths, parks and sidewalks (where allowed) until your child can demonstrate riding competence and knowledge of the rules of the road. Once your child is ready to ride with traffic, below are just a few things to keep in mind:
Ride with traffic, not against it, and stay as far to the right as possible.
- Make eye contact with drivers.
- Bikers should make sure drivers are paying attention and are going to stop before they cross the street.
- Stop at all intersections and crosswalks.
- Look left, right and left again before entering the street.
- Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left.
- Respect all traffic signals and stop at all stop signs and stoplights.
- Utilize lights and reflective gear when riding at night or early in the morning.
Now your child is ready to hit the road. Better yet, hit the road the road together and make bike riding a family affair.