As the school year winds down, most children are looking forward to getting out on their bicycles. Biking is seriously fun, but itís also serious business: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 9,000 cyclists age 14 and younger were injured in biking accidents related to vehicular traffic in 2010.
To help your young cyclist enjoy safer riding this summer, follow these tips from the League of American Bicyclists.
Helmets: Helmets are the single most important safety device for reducing head injuries among cyclists. So make it a rule: no helmet, no bike. Be sure the helmet is fitted correctly so that it can provide optimum protection. Let kids pick out their own helmets: They'll be more inclined to wear them. And set a good example by wearing your own helmet, too.
Bike Size: Make sure the bike is sized correctly to the child. Donít put children on bikes they will ďgrow into.Ē Their feet should be able to touch the ground when they're straddling the bike seat.
Learning to Ride: Children can be bike passengers (in child seats or trailers) as soon as they can hold their heads up and wear helmets. Once they have basic motor skills, often around age 5, they can try bikes of their own. Use training wheels at first, moving them up slightly as your child can balance more confidently. Have your child practice riding both in a straight line―such as along the lines in a vacant parking lot―and in circles to improve balance. Teach bikers how to use the brakes, too.
Traffic: Until they ride bikes on their own, children have only been passengers, so be sure to tell them about how to yield, pass and stop safely. Remind bikers that they'll need to follow the same traffic laws that other vehicles do. Point out potential hazard areas, such as driveways and crosswalks, and teach them hand signals.
Rides and Routes: Plan riding routes together and let your child take the lead on a ride. Try rides to the school, a friendís house or a nearby park, increasing or varying the rides as your child gains confidence and stamina.Safety Extras
- Wear light-colored or reflective clothing to enhance visibility, particularly at dusk and into the evening hours.
- Always check the inflation of tires before a trip.
- Make sure bikes have reflectors; if older kids are riding when itís dark, outfit bikes with white headlights and red rear lights.
- Turn off the tunes and take off the headphones: Riders need to devote their full attention to the road.
- Keep bikes safe too. Lock them up when unattendedóeven if youíll only be away for a few minutes.
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