It’s More Than Just Having the Safest Bicycle Helmet
Bike riding safety habits are so important to instill in your children. A bike is your child’s first vehicle and with it comes the responsibility of learning to ride safely. Parents are the best teachers. You have to be, especially when your child’s safety is concerned.
Some kids seem to always learn the hard way. But when it comes to bike riding safety habits you can teach your kids so much about riding a bike and being aware of their environment that will mean they don’t need to learn the hard way.
Take a pro-active, encouraging approach to teach your children, and even their friends, to ride safely and always wear their bicycle helmets. Make it interesting and even fun. Most of all make sure that what you are teaching sinks in. You want your kids to be aware of the dangers and still love riding their bikes.
Building strong good habits takes time and repetition, no matter how young we are.
What are the three key bike riding safety habits?
1. Be Visible
2. Follow the Road Rules
3. Be Predictable
At HelmetGeeks.com we want to provide you with the resources to assist you to teach your kids to love riding safely and avoid becoming part of cycle accident statistics.
Riding a bike safely is way more than wearing bicycle crash helmets. The three main safety habits you can help your children to form are:
1. Always Being Visible
Some of the most common bicycle injuries happen because a kid on a bike has not been seen. Any time your child gets on their bike, even if it’s just for a short ride to the store or a friend’s house, they need to be easy to see. People in cars are not always watching for cyclists, so being more visible is important.
Ways to be Seen:
Use reflectors and lights
Wearing bright colors
Wearing something reflective
Wear a brightly colored helmet
Ride where you can be seen
Use Reflectors and Lights
Reflectors and lights for bikes are important. There are many kinds of reflectors and lights that are practical safety accessories and will also make your kids bikes look even cooler.
Reflectors which fit on the wheel spokes are effective because they move. These make the child on a bike more easily seen from the side. Front and rare reflectors also help the cyclist be seen.
There’s a huge variety of lights for kids’ bikes. These are most critical for helping keep your child visible at dawn and dusk, not only when it’s fully dark. If your child is caught out in the rain or whenever the light is low, having lights on their bikes will make them far easier to see. Riding a bike during the hours of darkness without lights is illegal in many places.
Front lights are classified as ‘seeing’ lights or ‘be seen’ lights. Seeing lights highlight the road in front, and are designed for riding in unlit areas. Be seen lights are designed to make cyclists more easily seen and are designed for use in more well-lit areas.
Rear lights must be red and are ‘be seen’ lights. Having a rear red flashing light can be most effective. Before purchasing lights you need to check your child’s bike for where they can be attached. This is not usually a problem for front lights but it can be for rear lights. If your child’s seat is at its lowest position there may not be anywhere to fit some types of lights.
LED lights are most effective. They are powerful, tough, and the batteries last for the longest time.
Wear Bright Colors
Brightly colored clothes and bike helmets will make your child easy to spot. Darker or dull clothing will mean they are not so visible. A moving child wearing really loud clothes is more likely to catch a car driver’s attention than a kid in mute colors.
Especially when the light is low, light and bright colors are more easily seen because our eyes are more naturally drawn to light objects. You might like to give your children bright jackets they can make a habit of putting on each time they put their bike helmet on. This can be part of their bike riding safety habit.
Wear Something Reflective
Wearing a bike safety jacket and reflective bike safety gear like snap-on bands will help keep your child visible when the light is low. Particularly in colder climates in the winter if your child is out riding reflective gear will help keep them safe.
Wear a Brightly Colored Helmet
Like wearing light and bright clothes, a bright cycle helmet on your child’s head will make them easier to see. Bright and bold is best. Their helmet is the highest and often the most visible part of them when they are riding. It makes good sense to have them wear a bike helmet that’s as visible as possible.
Ride Where You Can be Seen
This is one of the most important bike safety rules you can teach your child. They must learn to ride where they can be easily seen. Too often accidents occur when kids on bikes are just not seen. All the other points I have made here will be far more effective if your child has a good habit of riding their bike where they can be seen.
If they ride regularly to school or to friends’ houses you can help them plan the safest route where they will be seen most easily. If this is left to the child they will most likely choose the shortest, quickest route. It may not be the safest route. You will need to travel the various routes yourself and choose the best ones where kids will be most visible on their bikes. Take your child with you and talk about what you are doing so they are more aware of the need to be seen when riding their bike.
2. Follow the Road Rules
It’s vitally important for your kids to know and to follow riding a bike on the road rules. They must also know the proper hand signals for biking. Bikes are considered vehicles and riders must follow the road rules the same as car drivers do.
Your kids need to understand the meaning of road signs and traffic signals. They must know what to do when they are riding and see them. Without teaching them they may not be aware of what road signs mean or that they must obey them.
When they encounter an intersection with no signs, teach them to slow down or stop, and look. They must also understand it’s important to ride with the flow of traffic on the correct side of the road. All of this is common sense when you’re an adult, but teaching it so that it’s clear to your kids is an important part of bike riding safety.
Consult your local road code and work through teaching the rules relevant to bicycle riding. You could consider giving your child a quiz or test which they must pass just as drivers to receive a license.
Going out with your children to the areas they will most likely be riding will be the most effective situation to teach them about road rules and safety. This is the ideal location for you to test their bike skills and safety knowledge.
3. Be Predictable and Pay Attention
This may be more challenging to teach than points 1 and 2, but is equally important. Accidents happen unpredictably. This is why it is so important to help your kids form bike riding safety habits. Teaching your kids to act in a predictable way will help your kids be safe.
Ways to be predictable are:
Do what drivers expect you to do and be where they expect you to be.
Ride in a straight line, not too close or too far from the curb
Don’t presume drivers will see you just because you can see them
Concentrate and pay attention to what’s around you
Don’t talk or text or even have your mobile in your hand
Don’t fool around with your friends
Listen to what’s going on around you
Keep both hands on the handlebars unless you are signaling
Don’t just shoot out across a street or driveway without looking first
Remember when you are talking to your children about these safety issues their perceptions are often quite different from ours. Kids often do not consider or understand danger or risks when they are out having fun on their bikes with friends.
Children have a narrower field of vision than adults, making it more difficult to see what’s around them. They also may not understand that just because they can see a car the driver may not be able to see them.
Speed and sound perception are undeveloped in children. Judging how fast a vehicle is moving or where the sound of a vehicle is coming from is more difficult for a child. Kids can be distracted or impatient and misjudge how fast a car is approaching. They may be able to hear a car coming, but not know from which direction.
Bike Maintenance For Safer Riding
Make sure bikes are in safe riding order and adjusted to fit the rider. It’s important for your child to be able to reach the brakes and pedals easily. If their seat is too high or too low they may not be able to control the bike properly.
Check their tires often. Soft tires mean lower performance and the tires will deteriorate more quickly. Try the brakes and make sure they are working well and adjust them as needed.
You might also look into purchasing a bicycle crash sensor [URL] to attach to your child’s bikes or cycle crash helmets.
Environment Awareness for Child Cyclists
Teach your children to watch for potholes, gravel, broken glass, puddles, etc. when they are riding. Hitting any of these and other things can be dangerous. Puddles may not appear deep and they can be fun to ride through, but appearances can be deceptive.
Being aware of other people and dogs who are walking around the area your children are riding is something else they need to be aware of. This is not just for safety reasons, but for courtesy as well, especially if there are seniors out walking. When your child comes riding up behind someone on a shared path it’s polite and safe to make their presence known. Saying “on your left” or “on your right” to indicate on which side you will ride past them or ringing their bell is a good idea.
Making eye contact with drivers when your children are riding on the street is another important thing for them to learn. Knowing that a driver has seen them will help keep them safer.
Wearing earbuds or headphones can be fun while riding, but it is more dangerous for your kids. They need to be able to hear what is happening around them.
Is it Legal to Ride a Bike on the Sidewalk?
This is a question you must know the answer to before you encourage your child to do so. You must check your local laws. There are differing opinions on whether it’s safer for kids to ride on the sidewalk or on the road. What is most important is what is legal.
Safety for riding on sidewalks is different than for road riding. Children must watch for vehicles coming not only from roads, but also driveways and other places as drivers may not expect them to be on the sidewalk.
It’s important to stop at corners to see and be seen. Teach your kids to enter a street at a corner and not from between parked cars. If they are between cars it will be difficult for drivers to see them and for them to clearly see the traffic.
Teach Your Kid to Ride A Bike
As we learn to be mobile from a very young age, crawling then walking. Many of us progress to riding and the thrill of our early attempts are memories we often cherish for life. We progress to be further independent on two wheels, balancing and moving along without the help of our parents.
As parents we must be aware at this stage of a child’s life experience they really need our help as much as ever. Their newfound independence as they fly off with their friends on their bikes is incredible. We must teach them the necessary safety skills and equip them with good helmets and safety gear. If we do this for them they will be able to enjoy riding for a lifetime.
When you teach your kid to ride a bike make sure you are also teaching them to ride safely. You might be buying them the safest bike helmet, but if you do not spend time to educate them to ride safely they may become another bike accident statistic. Teaching them about riding a bike on the road and the rules is so important. Remember, their bicycle is their first vehicle.
A Well Fitted Helmet
Helmets are designed to last for a while so they have variable sizing. To make sure the helmet fits your child, it will come either with multiple helmet pads or a fit ring (or both).
With skate-style helmets, you generally have to rely on padding. Other cycling helmets will have a “universal fit ring” at the back of the helmet that tightens or loosens the helmet.
The helmet is appropriately snug when your child can shake and roll their head without the helmet moving around. The front of the child’s bike helmet should be aligned just above their eyebrows.
If it is tilted backward and you are seeing large expanses of their forehead, it needs to be adjusted. You want the helmet to be comfortably touching their head all the way around.
It should be level and stable enough to resist even violent shakes or hard blows and stay in place. It should be as low on the head as possible to maximize side coverage, and held level on the head with the strap comfortably snug.
A correctly fitted helmet should be worn facing the right way (it’s amazing how many people get this wrong.) It should not be worn on the back of the head because the forehead will be exposed. This will not protect your child if they go over the handlebars face first. If the front of the helmet were to be pushed further back as the result of an accident the straps could cause choking or bruising.
How Do I Know If My Child’s Bike Helmet Is Fitted Correctly?
It’s important to know how to fit a bike helmet for a child. If your child’s helmet is not comfortable, they are less likely to wear it. A properly adjusted helmet will fit your child’s head well and be much more comfortable.