Bike Safety Tips for Young Children
Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage. Many of us can’t recall a time when we didn’t ride a bike. Still others haven’t ridden a bike in years. Having a family is a great time to get back into it and introduce your children to the fun and health benefits of cycling.
It is especially important to introduce our children to safe cycling, as well. Below are a few rules of the road and cycling safety tips to teach your children.
1) Children younger than 12 months cannot be carried on a bicycle, and must be carried in a properly attached and safety-approved child carrier.
2) Children must wear a bike helmet whether riding a tricycle or a bicycle. Children must be taught that this is part of riding a bike; that it is normal. If the routine is established right from the beginning and gently reinforced every time your child gets on a bike, then it will become normal for them.
3) Make sure that the bike helmet fits snugly, not tightly, and sits properly on your child’s head. It should sit on top of your child’s head, not on the back of the head. Many cities give away bike helmets and fit them for your child for free.
4) Children under the age of 10 should not ride on the road. The sidewalk is safer. However, check with your local laws to make sure that riding on the sidewalk is allowed.
5) Make sure your child’s bicycle fits him properly. Have your child stand over the bicycle. “There should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the top tube (bar if using a road bike) and 3 to 4 inches if a mountain bike. The seat should be level front to back. The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bed at the kneed when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.” (NHTSA)
When choosing a bike for your child, know that children’s bikes are measured by the wheels. If your child is 18 months up to 5 years, he or she can use a bike with 12” wheels. Children between 4 and 7 will need 16” wheels.
6) In many places, it is law that bicycles have bells or horns. Even if it is not law, it is a good idea to put one on your child’s bike and teach him when to use it (eg: passing pedestrians).
7) Make sure that the tires on your child’s bike are sufficiently inflated and that the brakes work, and lines and pads don’t need replacing.
8) Teach your child how to watch for vehicles turning in and out of driveways.
9) Teach your child how to stop at stop signs and street lights (even if riding on the sidewalk) and to walk his/her bike across the street at an intersection…not ride.
As your child’s cycling skills get better, he’ll be ready for more and more challenges, especially once he’s old enough to ride on the road. It is important for him to learn the rules regarding his new abilities and environment.
Cycling can be a fun activity for a lifetime so long as we demonstrate and teach our children the rules they need to follow.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Kids and Bicycle Safety. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Web. June 11, 2012.
Bicyclists. New York City Department of Transportation. Web. June 11, 2012.
Kid’s Bicycle Safety Guide. Cyclesport.com. Web. June 11, 2012.
Safety Tips for Bicyclists and Motorists. California Department of Motor Vehicles. Web. June 11, 2012.
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