Can you smell it? Spring flowers and rain showers! Soon, children will once again be outside riding bikes. Along with the freedom of “hitting the open road” this activity allows, adults and kids alike need to think about another important issue – safety.
If you’ve read my posts, you know that I am well versed in children’s safety issues. This is because for many years I acted as the director of a local Safe Community Coalition, one of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) long-term projects to prevent childhood injuries.
One of my favorite areas surrounds education of parents and children on bike safety. This is because many do not realize that bicycles are actually classified as vehicles. This is explained on the NHTSA website in the following manner. “NHTSA encourages bicycling as an alternative mode of transportation to motor vehicle travel and encourages the adoption of mutual respect between motorists and bicyclists to enhance safety for all road users, including bicyclists. Bicycles on the roadway are, by law, vehicles with the same rights, and responsibilities as motorized vehicles.”
So, as the parent of an elementary age child, you have the responsibility to teach your child the safety rules of riding a bicycle. First and foremost, make sure your child has a bicycle helmet that fits correctly and that can be secured tightly under the chin. Think about it – Lance Armstrong wears a helmet at all times; your child should too. Next, make sure your child’s bike fits him or her. For example, a bicycle that is too big can be difficult for a child to control. Conversely, a bike that is too small can lead to your child losing his or her balance more easily.
Where children ride depends on age, as well as maturity. Young children will need to be supervised at all times while riding a bike. They should stay away from busy roads. Bike paths offer a great way to introduce a child to proper riding etiquette. If your child is older, and has proven him or herself to be capable on a bike, you may wish to ride tandem on non-busy roads. Key here is to flow with traffic. Remember the slogan, “Ride Right, Walk Left!” As NHTSA states, bikes must obey all traffic laws, as they are vehicles.
In addition to teaching road rules, make sure your child understands that cars backing out of driveways can be extremely dangerous. The same is also true for cars pulling out of parking lots. Children assume that a driver sees them; however, injuries have resulted over and over again because drivers simply do not watch for bicycles. To make a child understand this concept, I always say the following: “In a fight between a car and a bike, a car will ALWAYS win …nno matter what!”
I love riding my bike, and I encourage biking as a family activity. To be on the safe side, though, talk about safe bike riding with your child … and watch for bikes yourself!