As the days get longer and warmer, kids will naturally be spending more time outside — many of them on bicycles. Before they ride off, though, take the time to make sure your kids are riding safely and smartly.
Dress for Safety
Before your kids even leave the house, they should be dressed to ride.
Dressing for safe bike riding means children should:
- Most importantly, wear a helmet.
- Wear brightly-colored clothing so that other vehicles and pedestrians can easily see them coming.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing that can get caught in the pedals or chains.
Kids should wear shoes:
- with grips (like sneakers)
- with tightly tied laces. If laces are really long, they should be tucked into the shoe so they don’t get caught on the bike
- that can be snugly fastened on their feet — no flip-flops or slide-on shoes that could fall off or get caught in the bike
Kids should also avoid riding their bikes barefoot — it’s one less layer of protection for their feet.
You probably know that kids should wear a helmet. But choosing the right one isn’t just about picking their favorite color or pattern.
A well-fitted and safe helmet should:
- Contain a CPSC sticker. This means that the helmet meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards and provides good protection.
- Cover the forehead and sit two finger widths above the eyebrows.
- Fasten snugly under the chin, with no more than a finger’s width between the straps and chin. No sudden pulling or twisting should be able to move the helmet.
- Contain rear and front straps that form a V under the ears.
Once you’ve bought the right helmet, make sure your kids always wear them when going on a bike ride — even if it’s a short ride! They also should:
- Not wear a hat under a helmet, as this can make the helmet sit differently on the head.
- Gently place the helmet down after a bike ride (not throw it on the ground), as impacts on the helmet can compromise its effectiveness for a real crash.
Before going on a bike ride, you can make sure your kids are riding safely by checking the:
- seat height. While sitting on the seat, your child’s feet should be able to touch the ground. Also, the knees should not touch the handlebars while peddling.
- brakes, which should be in working order
- seat and handlebars, which should feel tight and in place
- tires’ air and treads
- bike chain, which should be snug, lubricated and rust-free
- spokes, which should be attached and not broken
- reflectors, a bell and/or a horn — make sure the bike has each. A cyclist needs to be able to communicate with other vehicles and pedestrians to make it known that they’re coming.
Follow the Road Rules
Although different neighborhoods and parks may have their own rules for bike riders, here are some general rules kids should follow on their rides:
- Avoid riding in the dark if possible.
- Allow for extra time to brake on wet roads.
- Stay focused on riding — that means no headphones, no selfies and no texting while bike riding.
- Ride with only one person on the bike at a time.
- Ride on the right side of the road and obey traffic laws as a car would.
- Use directional arm signals to indicate turns.
- Ride on sidewalks whenever possible. Kids under age 8 should not in the road at all, and kids ages 8-10 should be supervised by an adult if they’re riding in the road.
- Ride in a single line when riding bikes with a group.
- Be aware of parked cars.
One final safety tip:
Kids learn from the people around them, so set a good example. Everyone should wear a helmet and take all of the same safety precautions recommended for children.