Every year, hundreds of young bicyclists are killed and thousands more are injured in preventable crashes. You can minimize the risk, maximize fun and allow your child to enjoy the freedom of bicycling by understanding the basics of bike safety.
Every year, hundreds of young bicyclists are killed and thousands more are injured in preventable crashes. The majority of crashes occur when bicycles and cars share the same streets. Crashes can also occur on driveways, sidewalks and bike paths. In fact, the majority of bike crashes happen near the home. You can minimize the risk, maximize fun and allow your child to enjoy the freedom of bicycling by understanding the basics of bike safety.
Selecting a Bike
Bikes come in all shapes and sizes, and like a shoe, if it’s too small or too large it won’t be comfortable for your child and could result in injuries. It’s important to buy your child a bike that fits his or her height properly. The bike should also be appropriate for the terrain. Narrow tire bikes or “safety bicycles” have small tread and are indented for use on paved roads. Mountain bikes have wide tires with large tread patterns, a bigger gear section and front and rear suspension designed for steep dirt trails.
- Size—To check the size of the seat on the bike, ask your child to sit on the seat with their legs straddling the center bar. While gripping the handlebars, your child should rise up on the balls of their feet. While standing in this position, they should have one to two inches of clearance between them and the center of the bar. Never buy a bike that is too large with the intent your child with “grow” into it.
- Seat—Ask your child to sit on the bike to determine if the seat is properly adjusted. First, ensure the pedal is at a level closest to the ground. While your child straddles the seat, adjust the height of the seat until they can stand without leaning to one side. Ensure the seat is tight and does not move from side to side.
- Steering—Handlebars that are positioned above the center bar are the “standard” and should have grips at or above the seat level. Dropped handlebars should be position so the upper part of the bar is level with or slightly below the seat and titled down. Adjust the handlebars so your 70 percent of your child’s weight is on the seat and 30 percent is on the handlebars. Make sure the grips are not missing or loose.
Fitting the Bicycle to Your Child
Under 6 years……………………………….12”-16” wheel
6 to 9 years…………………………………..20” wheel
9 to 11 years…………………………………24” wheel
12 and over…………………………………26” or 27” wheel
Types of Bicycles
Single-Speed Middleweight—Coaster brakes; recommended for young cyclists.B
BMX—Modified frame, special wheels, competition handlebars and seat.
Multi-Speed Lightweight—For long-distance cycling, hill climbing and racing; equipped with hand brakes and requires maintenance.
All-Terrian or Mountain—Sturdy, multi-speed, wide tires, upright handlebars, hand brakes and off-road capabilities.
Young children may not be ready for hand brakes. Wait until they have developed greater strength in the hands and wrists before buying a bike of this type. This may not occur until the child has reached the age of 10.
Choosing a Helmet
Your child should wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home! In the event of a fall or crash, helmets reduce the risk of brain injury by almost 90 percent. Nearly 75 percent of bicycle-related fatalities among children could be prevented if they wore helmets. Your child should wear a helmet specifically designed for bicycle riding. It will have a label inside that shows it meets or exceeds safety standards developed by the American National Standards Institute, the Snell Memorial Foundation or the American society for Testing and Materials. The helmet should fit comfortable and snug and your child’s head, but not too tight. The rim should rest just above your child’s eyebrows, so the forehead, nose and chin are not exposed. Before buckling the chin strap, ask your child to shake his head from side to side. If the helmet moves too much, it’s too big and it won’t protect his head no matter how tight you pull the chin strap. Adjust the size with foam inserts supplied by the manufacture.
Like your vehicle, your child’s bike requires routine maintenance for optimal performance. Get into the habit of cleaning and inspecting the bike on a regular basis. Check the brakes—make sure they are lightly oiled. The frame of the bike should be intact with no braces, screws, bolts or brackets loose or missing. Reflectors are essential for visibility and should be located on the front, rear, sides and pedals. Replace any missing reflectors immediately! Don’t forget the tires…keep them inflated to the correct pressure marked on the tire wall. Always replace worn or damaged tires. Likewise, wheels should spin evenly without rubbing the forks or the frame. Replace broken spooked to avoid any safety hazard.
Safety and Cycling Tips
- Your child should wear a brightly colored helmet and retro-reflective material on clothing
- Always ride with the flow of traffic and teach your child the importance of obeying all traffic laws.
- Traffic signs, signals and pavement markings apply to bicyclist, too. Explain to your child that they must adhere to the directions given by police officers, crossing guards, and AAA School Safety Patrols.
- Always stop and look left-right-left before entering the roadway.
- Never ride at sunset or after dark.
- Don’t wear headphones or listen to music while riding—it’s important to hear what what’s going on around you.
- Sign your child up for a bike safety course to learn the basics in traffic laws and bike skills. Many AAA clubs host “Bike Rodeos” throughout the year. Contact your local AAA office to see if they participate.
Photo provided by AAA
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
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RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
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