Biking is a beneficial summer activity for children because it provides an opportunity to exercise, get outside, play and interact with other children. However, parents should consider these tips as their child engages in bike riding this summer. Children should be efficient in their bike-riding skills and proficient in the rules of the road before embarking on their own biking adventures. Parents should ride alongside their child until they are confident that they can ride on their own.
When riding a bike, always remember to do the following:
- Wear a securely-fitted helmet and fasten the chin strap
- Follow traffic signs and signals
- Ride in the same direction as traffic
- Stay in the bike lane whenever possible
- Look left, right and left again before entering street or crossing intersection
- Use the sidewalk appropriately and be alert of other pedestrians
- Never use electronics while riding
- Use hand signals when changing directions
- Make sure you ride in a straight line and do not swerve around cars – be predictable as you ride
- Use lights on your bike and wear bright-colored clothing
Director Think First Alabama, Julie Farmer, said, “Parents should model good behavior and always wear a helmet when riding a bike.” Parents should teach their child how to ride a bike in a safe area, such as an unused parking lot or empty athletic track. Children need to be taught the rules of the road and safety hand signals. A good resource to teach hand signals is provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/8009-handsignals.pdf
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “A majority of the 80,000 cycling-related head injuries treated in emergency rooms each year are brain injuries.”
According to Safe Kids, “Properly-fitted helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by at least 45% – yet less than half of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet.” The Alabama law for bike helmets states that children under the age of 16 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. In cases of violation, the child’s parent or guardian may receive up to a $50 citation.
Parents should always make sure their child has the right size helmet. Your child’s helmet should align with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards and have a certification stamp on the side – either Ansi or Snell. The fit and certification of a helmet is more important than the cost of the helmet itself. In addition, parents should make sure their child knows how to correctly put on the helmet to ensure their head is protected.
“A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward, backward or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly,” said Farmer.
In addition to helmet fit, proper bike fit is extremely important to ensure a safe ride. If possible, parents should bring their child along with them to the store when shopping for a bike. Be sure your child’s feet can touch the ground when they sit on the bike.
Before your child leaves on a bike ride, make sure:
- The reflectors are stable
- Brakes work efficiently
- Gears shift easily
- Tires are properly secured and inflated
- Helmet is secured
- Your child is not wearing long, loose clothing, flip-flops or sandals
Children should be at least 10 years old before riding a bike without a parent present. There are many factors that contribute to the decision, such as traffic, sidewalks available or where someone lives, but 10 years old is a good choice. At this age, children have the cognitive ability to determine how close the sound or sight of cars are in relation to their current location. To learn more about this or other safety topics, visit our website at childrensal.org.