Kids love biking to school. It gives them a sense of independence, allows them to catch up with friends and gives them an outlet for their energy. As most parents know, though, biking presents its own set of challenges and safety concerns.
Child Bike Safety Statistics
When children aren’t adequately prepared for the responsibility of biking to school or don’t fully appreciate the potential for injury due to reckless behavior, they may make mistakes without realizing it. Making a wrong turn or reading a text message could send them careening into a car, causing serious injury.
- 50 children go to the ER each hour for biking and other wheeled sports-related injuries
- Biking is the number one cause of ER visits for kids between the ages of 5 and 14
- 10,000 children sustain serious biking injuries each year that require hospital recovery time
Although biking is a fun activity and a convenient mode of transportation for children, the stats serve as a stark reminder of the importance of bicycle safety. While you don’t want your child living in constant fear, you should explain that there is always potential danger when riding a bike.
7 Bicycle Safety Tips for Kids
Here are just a couple of bicycle safety tips for children that will help keep them safer on the roads.
1. Wear a Helmet
It’s the most basic rule, but nearly half of parents say their child doesn’t follow it. A helmet is the only layer of defense between your child’s brain and the source of impact, which is usually an unyielding surface such as asphalt or concrete. Your child needs to wear one every time they go riding, even if it’s only around the block.
Be sure the helmet you pick has the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sticker. This certifies the helmet is of sufficient quality to protect your child in case of a fall. It also helps to pick a fun, brightly colored helmet so your child is motivated to wear it.
Here are a few additional helmet tips:
- Never reuse a helmet that has been damaged during a crash
- Make sure the helmet fits snugly
- Always tighten and buckle the straps so they form a V under the ears
- Pull the helmet down so it covers part of the forehead
2. Check Your Equipment Before Taking a Ride
It is extremely important to make sure your child’s bike is in good shape before taking off on a ride. Make sure all parts are secure and working correctly, and make sure the bike is adjusted properly.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that if your child is using a road bike, there should be about 1-2 inches between he or she and the top bar. If the child has a mountain bike, there should be about 3-4 inches of space. The height of the seat should be on the same level as the handlebar height.
3. Choose a Safe Route
Don’t let your child go off of Google Maps the first time they set out for their bike ride. You’ll want to plan and practice the route in advance so there aren’t any hiccups along the way.
The U.S. government currently funds Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs that organize events like Bike to School Day and educate parents on how kids can bike to school safely. In conjunction with these programs, your child’s school may have a list of safe and popular biking routes that they recommend.
If you don’t have access to such information, consider planning a route yourself – or visiting MapMyRide.com for ideas – and traveling it with your child on the weekend. Make note of busy intersections, hills, poor lighting, and any other safety concerns, and adjust the route as needed.
4. Go With Friends
The buddy system is a tried-and-true method for staying safe. If your child is in elementary or middle school, they may benefit from riding with a group of friends to school. In the case of very young children, you may want to send one parent to monitor the “bike train” of students.
5. Obey the Rules of the Road
Children and young teens have never driven, so they may be unaware of basic road rules. As you help them prepare for their bike ride, be sure to explain every situation they may encounter. Here are a few key pieces of information to cover:
- Do not dart out in front of cars, even if it seems like they’re going slow
- Bike with traffic, not against it
- Stay on the sidewalk or to the right-hand side of the road
- Stop at stop signs and red lights
- Walk the bike across crosswalks
- Tell pedestrians you are passing by saying “on your left,” ringing a bell or honking a horn
- Use hand signals to let cars know which direction you are turning
- Be cognizant of your visibility to drivers, especially at dawn, sunset or night when a motorist’s vision can be easily impaired
6. Pick the Right Clothes
Children and teens should always pedal with sneakers on, never in flip-flops or barefoot. Sneakers provide the right amount of grip so the feet won’t slip off the pedals.
Kids should also wear highly visible clothing, such as a bright neon top or a reflective biking jacket, so cars can see them at dawn, in fog or while it’s raining or snowing. Depending on the situation, you may want to equip your child’s bike with lights and reflectors.
7. Make Sure You Are Seen
One of the most important bicycle safety tips for children – as well as adults – is to make sure you are visible to motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists.
Try to wear bright colors whenever you are on your bike. Neon or fluorescent colors are recommended, but not white. You may think wearing a white shirt will help you stand out, but that actually does not make you more easily seen.
Also, wear reflective tape or other markings that reflect light. You may be able to see motorists, but that does not mean that drivers can see you.
Treating Children’s Bike Injuries at Complete Care
Sometimes injuries happen whether we’ve prepared for them or not. If your child has gotten into a biking accident and sustained an injury, you can bring them in to Complete Care ER for immediate emergency treatment. Our friendly doctors can treat:
- Broken bones
- Head and back injuries
- And much more
Call or visit your nearest Complete Care for prompt treatment.