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With the slightly warmer weather, my kids have had a few chances to ride their bikes, and I thought this would be a good time to review bicycle safety. (Read our post about great places to bike with kids in Chicago.)

Just like any activity – safe and well maintained equipment is a must. Check the seat and handlebars to keep them level and adjusted to the height of your child. Make sure the tires are properly inflated and that the brakes are working well. Helmets are a MUST. Kids need to know that there can be NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule. Each year in the U.S., about half a million children suffer serious injuries related to bicycling accidents – many of these involving head injury that could have been avoided if the child had been wearing a helmet.

Make sure the helmet was made after 1999 and that it meets the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (check for a CPSC sticker). Make sure the helmet is the proper size and fits.  The staff at a bicycle store can provide guidance with proper fit, but if someone with that training is not available there are some key elements for parents to look for:

  • The helmet should sit level on the child’s head – with no tilting forward or to the back.
  • The straps should be wide and fastened snugly under the chin so that the helmet will not be moved around by any pull or twisting of the strap.

Parents should also pay close attention to the clothing kids are wearing when riding their bike. Bright colored (or even fluorescent) clothes and helmets will make them more visible to drivers. Consider placing reflective tape on the helmet or the bike itself. Pant legs should not be too loose, to avoid the possibility of getting caught in the chain. The same concern goes for backpacks and their straps. Children should never ride barefoot and make sure the shoes grip the pedal well with no slipping.

  • It is also critical for parents to review the “Rules of the Road.”
    Kids MUST understand the importance of stopping at all traffic lights and stop signs. The same goes for driveways and alleys – always stop to check for traffic.
  • They should walk their bike across busy intersections.
  • Children should know that they must always ride in the same direction as traffic and never at dusk or in the dark.
  • They should never be allowed to ride with headphones or earbuds and use bike lanes when available.
  • Common sense also dictates that they should never ride on the handlebars, share their seat, or hold onto a moving vehicle. Review hand signals for turning.

With these safety tips and some common sense training and review, bicycling is a great way for children to get exercise and outdoor time, and can be a great way to get some family time together