Summer weather is an ideal time to enjoy a bike ride with the entire family. However, proper bicycle safety is an important component of the fun, and it should be taught to your child early. Here are some bike safety tips for young children.
Insist on a helmet
According to pediatrician Kristie Rivers, MD, a bicycle helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury by 88 percent. A well-fitting helmet should be worn on a bike ride of any length, anywhere – even if it’s just a quick trip around your own driveway. Getting your child used to wearing a helmet as early as possible will ensure that it becomes a lifelong safety habit.
Choose the right-sized bike
Children grow quickly, but selecting a bicycle that’s the right size for your child means they can operate it safely and confidently. You’ll know your child’s bike is the correct size if they can sit on the seat with their hands comfortably on the handlebars, and the balls of both feet touching the ground. Pedal brakes are often easier for younger children who may not yet have the strength to squeeze handlebar brakes.
Wear safe, brightly-colored clothing
Even during the daytime, brightly-colored clothing will help your child stay visible to drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Attaching reflectors to your child’s bicycle and clothing will increase their visibility as well. Ensure that pant legs or sleeves will not get caught on the bicycle’s moving parts or handlebars.
Stay off the roads if possible
Children younger than age 10 should stick to riding their bicycles on sidewalks or bike paths. Young children that are still building up their bicycling skills may become overwhelmed if they have to worry about vehicle traffic as well. Older children have usually developed their bicycling proficiency and are better suited to riding on the road.
Teach your child basic bicycling safety
Riding a bike is a fun activity for everyone, but children should be taught at a young age that it’s also an important responsibility. Even if you’re not riding on the road, you can teach your child basic safety skills, including: keeping both hands on the handlebars at all times; staying on the right side of the sidewalk or path; looking ahead instead of being distracted by things around them; being aware of cyclists and pedestrians coming in the opposite direction; and stopping and looking both ways before crossing the road or an intersecting path.
Ride along with your child
While your child may be eager to get out into the neighborhood and explore with their bike, it’s important that they are supervised until you’re comfortable they can ride safely on their own. Riding your bike along with your child is also an ideal opportunity for you to model safe bicycling behavior.
Bike riding is a great way for families to spend time together while getting some exercise and fresh air. Young children are often excited to ride their bicycles, and teaching them important bike safety skills will ensure the entire family will enjoy the experience.