Spring is officially upon us and for many families that means breaking out the bicycles from the garage and hitting the road for a family bike ride. Although learning to ride a bike can be seen as important part of growing up and it is a rite of passage, it can also be dangerous. That is why it is important to educate your children about the ins and outs of bicycle safety so that they can be ready to get out there with you. Unfortunately, the statistics bear out the need for this caution: in the United States, car crashes kill 33,00 people annually, but almost 1,000 of those are bicyclists!
One of the best tips you can take to heart is to make sure that everything fits properly, including the bike. One of the most common causes of bike accidents for youngsters is that they are riding a bike that is either too large or too small, making it hard to maneuver. In order to make sure that your child gets the right size bike, take him or her to a professional bike shop instead of a “big box” store that sells everything but specializes in nothing. Have one of their associates help to measure your child for the best bike fit. Once you have a good bike, make sure to pick up a helmet. Head injuries such as concussions from biking actually exceed most other activities including skating, baseball, and football. Also, check the fit of the helmet. A bike helmet should sit level on the head and there should not be any “rocking” movement either front-to-back or side-to-side. Also, make sure that you buy a new helmet when your child grows.
Besides having the right bike and helmet, there is other equipment you should invest in. Although many people think of a bike horn as a toy, it can have the same use as a car horn by letting vehicles know that you are there. The same goes for reflectors for the bike and even a headlight if you plan to go biking in the evening or around sunset. Finally, make sure that you have mirrors on your bike so that you can see behind you without having to turn around, taking your eyes off of the road for too long.
Finally, be sure to teach your children all of the rules of the road and model this behavior in your own actions. Teach them about right of way, stop signs, and how to manually signal a turn. Start small with the bike trips—such as limiting yourself to your own neighborhood before you venture out into heavier traffic areas. But once you do, keep vigilant and help your child to enjoy this great pastime safely.
|Common Accident Scenario||How to Prevent a Collision|
|A car is pulling out of a side street, parking lot, or driveway on the right.||Make eye contact with the driver by waving your arm, blowing your horn, or yelling (no cussing, please!) and try to get their attention. If that doesn’t work, slow down or ride further to the left.|
|A driver opens the car door right in front of you and you don’t have enough time to stop.||Ride to the left. If you ride far enough to the left of the parked cars you won’t ride right into a door that’s opened without warning.|
|A driver making a right turn drives right into you as you’re on the sidewalk and trying to cross at the crosswalk.||The best thing you can do is to slow down so if needed you can stop quickly and come to a full stop. Pay extra attention when crossing any road.|
|Don’t ride against traffic. Always ride with the flow of the traffic.||One study showed that riding the wrong way was three times as dangerous as riding the right way. For kids the risk is seven times greater.|
|You stop to the right of a car stopped at a red light or stop sign. They can’t see you. When the light turns green, you move forward, and they turn right – crashing crash right into you.||Stop behind the car and not to its right so you are visible to traffic on all sides.|
Use common sense when biking, such as: use lights and reflectors at night, signal your turns, use the whole lane when needed rather than hugging the right curb, avoid traveling on highways and congested areas, don’t ride while listening to music, follow the rules of the road, stop at red lights and stop signs, and obey other traffic signs.
This article updated on April 24, 2017
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