Nothing can come between a child and his or her bike! And nothing should come between your kids and good bicycle safety. Here are five essential tips to keep kids safe on the road.
Do you remember your first bike? For many of us, having a bike brought a sense of freedom to explore and adventure without Mom and Dad hovering. That's one of the many reasons kids have a natural love for bike riding. Bike time is not only fun, but it's also a super way to stay fit while enjoying quality time with Mother Nature.
But without proper bicycle safety precautions, biking can lead to injuries and even deadly accidents. A report by Stanford Children's Health showed that a staggering 200,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. Of course, not every accident is preventable, but by taking some essential safety measures, you can drastically reduce the chances that a bicycle calamity will affect your family.
Choose the proper bike size
If your child's bike doesn't fit her body size, she's at risk for a cycling accident. Manufacturers have long recommended sizing a bicycle according to wheel size and a child's height, but that's not the only consideration—the bike's frame size and seat height range can vary from brand to brand.
TwoWheelingTots offers great advice for finding the right bike size for your child.
What's the best way to find the right size bike for a child?
Using your child's inseam in relation to the bike's seat height is the best and most accurate way to ensure a perfect bike fit. The frame and the tire size work together to determine the seat height of a bike. So by selecting a bike based on seat height versus tire or frame size, you can ensure a great bike fit for your child even if they've never had a chance to try out the bike before you buy it!
Their video explains precisely how to measure your child's inseam for perfect sizing.
Make sure your kids know that helmets are non-negotiable
Safety gear is essential when it comes to enjoying a safe ride, but the piece of equipment that matters most is a helmet. Sadly, almost 40% of parents of children ages 5 – 14 years old admitted that their child did not always wear a helmet.
Some kids think wearing a helmet isn't cool. Others are forgetful and don't make it a habit. Others have never had a bike helmet or the one that they do have no longer fits.
Nationwide Children's report on bicycle-related injuries stated that 25 children are sent to the emergency room every hour due to bike accidents. "Wearing a helmet while riding a bike is the best way to decrease the risk of serious injuries," said Lara McKenzie, PhD, a principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy and senior author of the study.
My 14-year old daughter recently got a new bike. She cringed when I told her we were going to the bike store to buy a new helmet. Most of her friends don't wear them, and she didn't want to stand out. But our house rule is "No helmet, no bike!" The bike sales associate spent time measuring her, but also making sure she found a helmet she felt comfortable wearing. She did find one that suited her personality and was appropriate for her head size. Now, she wears it on every ride!
Buying the correct size helmet is just as important as the right size bicycle. The National Highway Traffic Safety has a helpful chart on how to measure correctly for your child's bicycle helmet.
Dress for the ride with appropriate clothes and safety gear
In addition to an appropriate bike helmet, keep these safety tips in mind when your child dresses for a ride.
- Wear close-fitting clothing that won't get tangled in bike chains or caught up on handlebars
- Wear bright, neon, or fluorescent clothing to make yourself more visible
- If you must ride at night, wear reflective clothing, and use flashing lights
- Wear knee and elbow pads and a chin guard
- Wear the right shoes—something with a firm base will help grip the pedals
- Make sure shoelaces are tightly tied
Bikes need to dress for a ride, too! Equip your child's bike with a bell or some other sound-maker so he can alert pedestrians of his approach.
Do the ABC quick check
It's important to do a bicycle maintenance check each time you ride your bike. A fun way to remember this essential step is by using the ABC quick check method.
A is for air: Check the air pressure, spin the wheels and make sure the tires are not worn out.
B is for brakes: Check to make sure coaster brakes will stop the bike by spinning the back wheel and applying the brake. If the bike has hand brakes, check to see that the levers don't hit the handlebars when squeezed.
C is for cranks, chain, and cogs: Grab the crank arms and try to wiggle side to side. There should be no movement. Spin the pedals and cranks to see if the chain drives the rear wheel.
This YouTube video on the ABC method offers a quick overview that's perfect for kids to watch.
Make bicycle safety a family affair
Bike riding together as a family is a terrific way to spend time together. Parents who develop bike safety practices as a routine will lay a strong foundation for years to come.
Never negotiate on bike safety.
Start early and be sure your child wears a helmet and protective gear as soon as they start riding their bikes, even with training wheels. Don't just insist they wear a helmet, explain to them why you need to take precautions. Let them ask questions and include them in the process.
Never negotiate on bike safety. Implement consistent riding rules such as always wearing a helmet, even on short rides, learning proper hand signals, riding on the right side with the traffic, and not permitting night riding.
If the entire family has bikes, find nearby bike paths and take family rides together. This way, your kids see you wearing a helmet and practicing safe driving. Being a good role model is the key to encouraging your kids to comply.
Keep it safe and make it fun! You can create great memories on your bike adventures and get a healthy dose of exercise. At the same time, you'll be engraining the extreme importance of practicing bike safety protocols—a giant win for the whole family.