The chills of winter have given way to clear sunny days and there’s nothing more fun on days like this than a family bicycle ride at the park. It is especially exciting for a young rider who is looking forward to learning to ride a brand new bicycle. Before you head out, make sure you and the kids understand the rules for safe riding and everyone wears appropriate safety gear to protect from possible bicycling injuries.
Bicycling is fun: it keeps us fit, and provides mobility. Bicycling helps kids develop good judgement skills as well as self confidence. Safe bicycling skills for kids extend into safe practices and a healthy lifestyle for life. The most important part of cycling is to have fun in a safe environment with the correct safety gear. When parents teach their children safe bicycling skills both the child and parent will feel more confident when the time comes to venture away from home on a bicycle.
There are quite a few safety rules for kids to follow but the most important is our #1, never to be broken, never to be forgotten rule: always and without fail wear a helmet. Parents should set the example and also wear a helmet. You only have one brain, and while bones and skin heal, brain injuries can be life changing for the child and the parent.
Bicycle helmets are designed to compress in a crash and to slow the brain down so it doesn’t bounce around inside of your skull causing a brain injury. Once a bicycle helmet has been crashed, it has done its job and can no longer be relied upon to save your head and brain from injury. It is not just a sales ploy by the helmet manufacturers to sell more helmets when they recommend not using a crashed helmet, it is also for your safety. You wouldn’t use a torn parachute so don’t use a crashed helmet. The outcome of either could be catastrophic.
Finding the best place for kids to learn how to ride a bicycle is important. Initially it is a good idea to start the child’s bicycle riding lessons at a local park with no auto traffic. Children can ride on the foot path within the perimeter of park and with other bicycling kids, all within your view. The interaction with other cyclists in a safe environment teaches the young rider how to control the bicycle. When contact is made between bicycles, it teaches that collisions have consequences. If the young cyclist is wearing protective clothing and a helmet, there may be tears but with the right safety gear nothing more is likely.
There is a plethora of things for a kid to remember about bicycling safety so it’s important that a parent accompanies the child on initial bicycling excursions outside the confines and safety of a park.
- Always wear a bicycle helmet when riding a bicycle. Children and adults, no exceptions.
- Always obey the rules no matter whether riding on the sidewalk or the road, obey the rules.
- Never ride a bicycle against the flow of road traffic.
- Always give way to people on the sidewalk. Pedestrians have right of way.
- Wear other protective clothing such as leg/knee pads, arm protectors, and padded gloves.
- Keep 2 hands on the handlebar at all times.
- Conduct a brake check before leaving the house. Make sure the brakes are working.
- See and be seen. Wear bright colored clothes when riding in traffic or around crowds.
- Look ahead and pay attention to surroundings, people, cars, and other bicycles.
We can’t emphasise enough how important it is for young riders to wear protective gear including a properly fitted cycling helmet. More children aged from 5 to 15 end up in emergency rooms for bicycling injuries than any other sport. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 90% – yet less than 50% of riders 15 years of age and under consistently wear a bicycle helmet.
As safe bicycle riding is important for children and adults, it is just as important is keeping the bicycle safe from less than honest people, bicycle thieves. No bicycle is safe from theft when left unattended and more bicycles are stolen from open garages than any other place.
Whether your child is commuting to school on a bicycle or just neighborhood riding to a friend’s home, it is important to stress how bicycles must always be locked to an immovable object to protect it against theft.
While at home, keep a strong cable to lock all bikes inside the garage or storage location. Away from home (at school, a coffee shop or around town) always lock the bicycle to a bicycle rack or other permanent object using a strong U-lock from a respected lock manufacturer. Walmart is not the place to buy proper bicycle security.
Children are very excitable and they have the tendency to believe that no one would steal their bicycle. Statistics say otherwise: bicycle theft a $2 billion “business” in the U.S. no one is safe from bicycle thieves.
Safety of the rider and safety for the bicycle are the ingredients for a life of fun bicycle riding. Enjoy cycling with your kids; you are teaching them skills that will stay with them for the remainder of their lives.
Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. --John F. Kennedy