When the days of having your child ride in a bike trailer are long gone, buying your child his first bicycle can be an exciting milestone. However, this is also a time to play the role of a parent — making sure your child will be safe when riding.
Bicycle-related crashes are often a result of the rider’s behavior, such as failing to wear the proper safety gear or not following the rules of the road. Even with the proper safety gear, however, cyclists do not have much protection when sharing the road due to distracted drivers and reckless drivers, according to The Barnes Firm.
That’s why it’s important to not only teach your child about bicycle safety gear, but also about the safe and unsafe places to ride, depending on the particular area you live. Here are five ways to keep kids from being injured while bike riding.
- Always Wear a Helmet
A helmet is essential for your child’s safety while riding. If your child argues against wearing one, try to make it fun for him. Get a helmet that matches your child’s bike or has a cool design they like, so he’s less likely to discard the helmet or throw a tantrum when it’s time to wear it. It’s easier for kids to accept something they may not want initially if it’s cool, trendy or otherwise desirable.
Choose a helmet that fits properly and includes straps that can be fastened comfortably and snugly under the chin. Never let your child wear a hat under their helmet, because it will affect the way the helmet fits. Also make sure the helmet is treated with the same respect as the bike is. A broken helmet is about as good as no helmet at all.
- Make Sure Your Child is Visible
As kids become tweens — and even young teens — they’ll likely ride their bike frequently to get where they want to go or need to be. Brightly colored or neon-colored clothing can help increase your child’s visibility as he rides. Unfortunately, if your child rides after the sun goes down, bright colors won’t really help. He can blend right into the darkness without the proper safety gear and equipment, which means he could be involved in a collision. Reflectors and lights are a must, along with a loud bell, which can be used to alert others. A visibility vest in the evenings and nights is also a very good idea.
- Choose a Bike That’s Best
Not all bikes are made the same, so not all of them are suited to all kids. The right bike should be the correct size for your child’s height. When your child is sitting on the bike’s seat, the balls of his feet should touch the ground. He shouldn’t have to hyperextend his arms or legs to reach the handlebars or pedal comfortably.
Don’t forget to always test the brakes of a bike before you buy it and keep testing them as time goes on to ensure they work properly. If the brakes fail on your child’s bike, it can put him at risk of serious injury.
At the end of the day, kids are less concerned about how safe or appropriate a bike is. Instead, they just want the cool bike. So, it’s up to you, as your child’s parent or guardian, to ensure the bike is the right fit, in proper working order and will last through all that it’s put through.
- Make Sure Your Child Knows the Rules of the Road
When your child is riding in your neighborhood or on the street, it’s important that he knows how to follow the rules of the road. Your child needs to know that he should follow traffic laws, such as stopping at stop signs and lights, signaling to others when he’s planning to turn and avoiding risky behavior such as weaving in and out of cars or riding out in front of traffic when crossing a street. Some communities may offer bike safety seminars. If not, there is plenty of bike safety information online.
- Consider Training Wheels
Training wheels aren’t for everyone. But for first time riders or younger children, training wheels to start off are sometimes the right call. The good news is that they can easily be removed when they’re no longer needed.
Training wheels can be used for your child to be able to get a feel for what riding a bike is like without having to worry about falling and hurting himself. They can also serve as an important aid that allows your child to become confident in his riding ability.