Riding a bike can be a great way for children to explore their neighbourhood and get some exercise, but, it also requires them to be responsible and safe. It's a great opportunity to teach your children about what it takes to be a good bike rider, lessons that can translate into other areas of their lives.
Sharing the sidewalk and road
For starters, being a good bike rider means being a safe bike rider. Children need to watch out for themselves as well as for others on the sidewalk and road. Let them know that when you're a bike rider, you must share space with pedestrians and, if you're old enough, cars. For safety reasons, children under the age of 10 should not be riding in traffic.
When biking on the road, cyclists should bike in the same direction as traffic-on the right hand side. It is a common misconception that children should bike in the opposite way, but this is not safe and is illegal.
Children are responsible for following the rules of the road just like drivers. By following these rules, children can keep safe and remain visible to drivers. Children must use hand signals every time they change direction in their riding, such as merging, turning, or stopping. Save the bicycle tricks for parks: Sudden movements can confuse drivers and can lead to accidents.
- To turn left: stick your left arm straight out to the side
- To turn right: make the same movement but with your right arm. Or, you can also signal a right turn by making your left arm look like the letter "L."
- To stop: point your arm down if you want to stop while riding.
Encourage your child to pay attention to traffic signs and signals like stop signs, one-way signs, and traffic lights. If your city or town has special lanes on the roads for bikes, have your children ride in those spaces instead of on the road with vehicles. At the same time, children must be alert and aware of what's around them. Remind them to always stay watchful of cars' movements and to pay attention to drivers who want to make wide turns. When riding in a neighbourhood, stay away from driveways: Cars can back up suddenly. Mirrors on bikes can help children monitor everything around them while they ride.
Children should avoid areas that have potholes, water problems, and rocks on the ground. It can also be a good idea to stay out of places where dogs are. Riding in places that are not meant for bike traffic can cause accidents for cyclists, pedestrians, and car drivers alike.
Making sure that your children follow the rules of the road can keep them safe from injuries and accidents, while also protecting others around them.
Helmets are important pieces of safety equipment and mandatory in many provinces for riders under the age of 18. Helmets not only protect a rider's brain, but they can mean the difference between life and death if your child were to get into an accident.
When shopping for a bike helmet, try on different ones to make sure you find one that is the right fit. The following guidelines should help:
- Use helmet pads or adjustment rings to ensure the helmet fits perfectly on your child's head
- Helmets should sit low on the forehead without covering the r eyes
- A good guideline to measure fit is to place one or two fingers between your eyebrows and your helmet
- Buckles should be kept under the chin and straps should fit snugly.
- Have your child open their mouth as if they were at the dentist's office: If the helmet naturally moves down the forehead slightly, you're ready to go!
Children should wear a helmet every time they get on a bike, no matter how far they're riding. Helmets should always be replaced after bike accidents or if broken while playing.
Before sending your child off on a new bike, make sure it's the appropriate height for them. Have your child hop on their bike and put their feet on the ground. If they have to use their toes to balance, adjust the height of their seat until your child is steady.
Bikes should also be fully examined before each ride, so it's a good idea to teach your child what to look for to make sure it's safe to ride before getting on it.
- Check that the tires have enough air in them
- Remove anything that's stuck in the wheels
- Put the chain back around the crank if it's out of place
- Spin the pedals to prove that they can move smoothly
- Check that the reflectors are in place and turn on lights if riding at night
- Do a quick brake test before riding on the street. To do this, teach your child to squeeze the hand brakes and push their bike forward. If the bike stays in place, the hand brakes are doing their job! If not, you may need to make an adjustment to ensure their bike is safe enough to ride
- Stretch your arms to make sure that you can make hand signals for turning and stopping
Additional bike safety rules
By making good choices, children can stay safe on the road. To enhance visibility, children should wear brightly coloured clothes when riding, especially at night. While riding with friends can be fun, it's dangerous to have more than one person on a bike at one time. Children should never let a friend share a bike seat or sit on the handlebars. When crossing busy intersections, children should get off of their bike and walk it across the street along with the pedestrians.
Help protect your child by helping them find the safest routes to their favourite places before they try to go there on their own. And just like when walking, remind them to always look both ways before getting on or crossing streets.
Visit the following links to learn more about bike safety for kids:
- Kids and Bicycle Safety
- Riding a Bicycle
- Bicycle Safety: What Every Parent Should Know (PDF)
- Bicycling in New York
- Namron Says: Be Safe On Your Bike! (PDF)
- Kids Safety Bike Road Rules and Hand Signals
- Tips for Getting Your Kids to Wear Bicycle Helmets (PDF)
- Easy Steps to Properly Fit a Bicycle Helmet (PDF)
- Bicycle Safety Inspection Checklist (PDF)
By: Kim Morrisseau