One of the joys of being a parent is seeing your child do anything for the first time: smile, laugh, crawl, walk…the list goes on. At some point, they’ll be taking their first outing on a bike. As parents, we help our children find their balance, stand behind them to get them started, and rejoice when they make it to the end of the street. But what about bicycle safety? In your driveway or by home, it may not occur to you, but when you send your child out on a bike ride to a friend’s house, it’s imperative that you know what to do to keep your kids safe on two wheels.
Why Bicycle Safety Is So Important
Each year, nearly 300,000 children visit the emergency rooms of hospitals in the US due to injuries sustained while bike riding. That’s not a big number—until you think about the fact that your child could be one of them. Of that 300,000, approximately 10,000 are admitted to the hospital.
There are some things you can do as a parent to stress the importance of bicycle safety to your children. We’re going to break it down for you so you know exactly what you can do to keep your kids safe.
Wear a Helmet Every Ride
The most important equipment needed for a safe bike ride is a helmet. Your child should wear her helmet every time she gets on her bicycle, no matter where she’s going or how long or short the ride will be. Unfortunately, most people are unclear about how to size bike helmets and even how to wear them properly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has an excellent PDF that you can download to ensure your child is wearing a well-fitting helmet.
Check your child’s helmet before each ride until you’re sure he’s comfortable wearing it correctly on his own. Be sure to replace the helmet as your child grows and when it’s involved in a crash. Even if the crash is minimal and the helmet doesn’t appear damaged, its integrity may decline. Better safe than sorry.
Dress in the Right Gear
Any time you or your child is out on streets and paths, it’s vital that you can be seen by cars passing by. One of the keys to bicycle safety is wearing brightly colored clothes. That might just mean a white or yellow top. Avoid dark colors while riding on a bike, especially at night.
In addition to being seen, your child should wear clothes that won’t get caught up in the bicycle chains. Be wary of loose shoelaces, skirts, or long, flowing pants. And make sure your child wears sturdy shoes when riding, such as sneakers. Flip-flops and sandals can fall off and not provide the good grip they need on the pedals.
Talk about the Rules of the Road
If your child is younger, you’ll probably be riding with him most of the time. He may also go riding on trails away from traffic. But as children grow, so does their independence. That’s why you need to share with them the rules of bicycle safety. If your child’s school or community center offers a bike safety course, that’s a great way to get her acclimated to the rules.
To get your child ready to ride on the road, start talking to her about safe driving habits when you travel in the car. Remind her that a bicycle follows many of the rules that cars do, including:
- Riding on the right side of the road
- Obeying traffic signs and signals
- Yielding to people and cars
- Not driving distracted, such as while texting, eating, or drinking
NHTSA highlights many of the bicycle safety rules you can discuss with your child and is a great way to start the conversation.
Community Choice Pediatrics Cares About Bicycle Safety—and Your Kids
Bicycle safety should be important to all of us, whether we have children or not. At Community Choice Pediatrics, we want kids to be happy and healthy, so keeping them safe on their bikes is near and dear to our hearts. As the weather warms and kids are outside more, we encourage you to talk to your kids about the importance of bicycle safety and the little repeatable things you can do together to have fun and stay safe.
And if you’re looking for a pediatrician for well-child visits or to help you through any bumps in the road (on a bike or off!), contact us. We’re eager to meet you!