There’s nothing like the first break of ‘spring’ weather and the cherry blossoms. It’s the first sign that life beyond winter will resume, and my kids will soon be able to PLAY OUTSIDE! This, inevitably, includes bicycle riding.

So, I’m seizing the opportunity to get a blog in there about bicycle safety. The number 1 noteworthy fact about bicycle safety is that more often than not, the accident or injury occurs as a result of the person riding the bike. The hope in this is that if your loved one heeds these few rules about bike safety, they will, most likely, stay safe.

Parents are busy. Amidst heavy workloads, children, homework etc., we don’t often find the time to check our children’s bikes, and their gear before heavy riding seasons.  You must make the time. Before your child gets on their bike again, make it a point to a quick, simple check to inspect and make sure all parts are secure and working properly.

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Half of the battle, as far as bicycle safety, begins before your child even gets on their bike.

You must check their bikes, and the gear, to ensure everything is working and a proper fit. You may even want to get your child in on the action. Let them put on their inspector hats and play inspector with you. Show them what to look for so that they can do quick safety checks prior to getting on their bikes. This inspection should include:

Tires: check the tires for air. Make sure adequate amounts of air are in the tire.

Brakes: Do the breaks work? Make sure to test before your child gets on.

Helmets: Does your child’s helmet fit correctly? If it doesn’t, then you may not be protecting your child adequately. Not sure how to know if the helmet is a proper fit? Click here for more information see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publication, “Easy Steps to Properly Fit a Bicycle Helmet.”

Adjust Your Bicycle to Fit: Have you child Stand over your bicycle. There should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the top tube (bar) if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if a mountain bicycle. The seat should be level front to back. The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.

Once you are done playing inspector, sit your child down and discuss bicycle safety.  Here are some rules you want to go over with your child. It’s important to walk the line between being scary serious, and upbeat. Make sure your child understands that most accidents happen when the child isn’t minding these rules…

 

Helmets: Don’t get on your bike without your helmet. Less than two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. The most serious injuries among a majority of those killed are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Eighty-nine percent of bicycle deaths are persons 16 and older, so helmet laws should include adults. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent. Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren't wearing helmets

The safest place for bicycle riding is on the street, where bicycles are expected to follow the same rules of the road as motorists and ride in the same direction. However, children under the age of 10 years old, however, are not mature enough to make the decisions necessary to safely ride in the street. For this reason, they are encouraged to ride on the sidewalk. But just because they are riding on the sidewalk, does not mean they don’t have a set of safety rules to abide by. They need to be just as prudent as their street-riding counterparts. Here are rules for sidewalk riding safety:

For anyone riding on a sidewalk:

Check the law in your State or jurisdiction to make sure sidewalk riding is allowed.

Watch for vehicles coming out of or turning into driveways.

Stop at corners of sidewalks and streets to look for cars and to make sure the drivers see you before crossing.

Enter a street at a corner and not between parked cars. Alert pedestrians that you are near by saying, “Excuse me,” or, “Passing on your left,” or use a bell or horn.

Bicycles in many States are considered vehicles, and cyclists have the same rights and the same responsibilities to follow the rules of the road as motorists. When riding, always:

Go With the Traffic Flow. Ride on the right in the same direction as other vehicles. Go with the flow – not against it.

Obey All Traffic Laws. A bicycle is a vehicle and you’re a driver. When you ride in the street, obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings.

Yield to Traffic When Appropriate. Almost always, drivers on a smaller road must yield (wait) for traffic on a major or larger road. If there is no stop sign or traffic signal and you are coming from a smaller roadway (out of a driveway, from a sidewalk, a bike path, etc.), you must slow down and look to see if the way is clear before proceeding. This also means yielding to pedestrians who have already entered a crosswalk.

Be Predictable. Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others.

Stay Alert at All Times. Use your eyes AND ears. Watch out for potholes, cracks, wet leaves, storm grates, railroad tracks, or anything that could make you lose control of your bike. You need your ears to hear traffic and avoid dangerous situations; don’t wear a headset when you ride.

Look Before Turning. When turning left or right, always look behind you for a break in traffic, then signal before making the turn. Watch for left- or right-turning traffic.

Watch for Parked Cars. Ride far enough out from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars (like doors opening, or cars pulling out).

Also, encourage your children to keep both hands on the handlebars at all times. No texting or carrying items while riding, except for in a backpack. This will optimize their chances of seeing and being seen. It only takes a second of not paying attention to ride into a perilous situation. Also, always discourage your kids from riding at night. I know all of this can be a bit overwhelming to take in; so, perhaps start by joining your kid for a bike ride and model the practices you’ve read in here. Lead by example my friends, and be safe. Happy biking!