Bike Safety Tips for Kids

Spring has sprung and the number of bicycles out on the streets is amazing. It's great to see families out for rides together and children getting exercise. However, it is disheartening to see the low level of bike safety that many of these families are practicing while they ride.

Here are some tips to bear in mind for keeping your whole family safe while riding bikes.

Make your child wear a helmet on every bike ride. I can't tell you how many people only make their child wear a helmet on "long" bike rides, or say "Well, she only rides in the driveway." The helmet protects the child's head if she falls, and falls can happen just as easily on your driveway as in any other place. Falls happen anywhere and everywhere, and the concrete is always just as inflexible.

Wear a helmet yourself. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I see families coasting along all the time where the children are wearing helmets but the parents are not. I've seen some horrible head injuries in adults from bicycle trauma, and I assure you that our adult heads are not any safer from injury if we fall. Be a role model and be safe.

Make sure all your helmets are specifically designed for bicycling. Football helmets don't count. Baseball batting helmets don't count. And if your child does fall, always inspect his helmet for cracks. Never use a cracked helmet, and it's probably wise never to buy a used helmet unless you know its history.

Make sure your child's bike is appropriately sized. Bikes that are too big can be dangerous. When your child is sitting on the seat and grasping the handlebars, he or she should be able to place the balls of the feet on the ground.

Teach your child the "rules of the road." Ride with the flow of traffic, use hand signals for turns and stops, and obey traffic signals and signs. And if, say, you've gotten into the habit of coasting through stop signs, break that habit before your kids pick it up.

Keep an eye on their bike-riding abilities and skills. If, for example, your child cannot perform the hand signals while riding the bike, he or she should not be riding in the street yet.

Don't let your child ride a bike at night, at dawn, or at dusk. It's just too hard for motorists to see them. Serious cyclists use a lot of special equipment if they ride in the dark. Most kids don't have this type of equipment and most parents probably don't want to pay for it.  Reflectors on the child’s bike are always a good idea for daytime but are not sufficient for nighttime riding.

Riding bikes together is a great family activity, but please remember to be safe and be a good role model!

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