Cycling is a great summertime family activity. Children are excited to find out they can go so fast and go places on their own. It can also be very frightening for parents.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you teach your child proper bike safety rules and practices from the beginning. Then you can be relatively sure your child is safe when he/she goes out without you.
To ensure your child cycles safely, it is important to follow these rules and guidelines:
1) A bike helmet is essential bicycle safety gear, and children need to be taught that this is a non-negotiable part of riding a bike. Not only will it protect your child’s head, it is also law in many states and cities across the United States.
It is important to establish helmet wearing at the beginning so the child understands that it’s normal and needs to happen every time, like putting on a seatbelt in the car. It should fit snugly, not tightly, and should sit properly on your child’s head.
Many cities actually give away bike helmets and will fit them properly for your child free of charge.
2) Children under the age of 10 should ride on the sidewalk, not the road. However, it’s best to check with your town/city’s/state’s law. In some places it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk.
3) When choosing a bike, it’s important to choose one that’s not too big or too small for your child. Children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years can use a bike with 12” wheels, while 16” wheels are designed for children between the ages of 4 and 7.
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration recommends that, with your child standing over the bike, “[t]here should be 1 to 2 inches between [the child] and the top tube (bar if using a road bike) and 3 to 4 inches if a mountain bike. The seat should be level front to back. The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bed at the kneed when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.”
4) Another bicycle safety standard in many places is a bell or horn on the bike.