How to Stay Safe on a Bicycle

Learning to ride a bike is one of the great rites of passage in childhood. A child with a bike does not have to depend only on his own two feet: he has the freedom and power of transportation.

With power comes risk. Your job as a parent is to minimize this risk, so I have assembled a few important points on bike safety.

First, keep a small child off the street, and accompany him as he rides. When you feel he is old enough and mature enough to share the road with cars, establish some basic safety rules.

When biking, they should ride with traffic, on the right side of the road. They need to stop before entering a street and at all intersections, and check all directions before proceeding. They need to ride only in daylight, not at dusk or after dark.

And yes, the dorky bike helmet is an excellent idea. Thousands of children are injured or killed every year as a result of bike accidents, frequently right near their homes. In 2010 alone, there were 800 deaths, 26,000 traumatic brain injuries and 515,000 emergency room visits after bike accidents. Asphalt is not soft, even right next to your house. The worst accidents are, of course, when a car hits a child. When this happens, the child flies through the air. The heaviest part of the child—the head—lands first. Make them wear the dorky helmet, on top of the head please, covering the top of the forehead, and tied snugly under the chin, not dangling on the back of the head. Make it a rule that they wear the helmet each and every time their feet hit those peddles. Hang it on the bike handlebars when not it is not in use so that it is the first thing on and the last thing off. Keep a big lock handy so that if you catch them on the bike without the helmet, you can walk over and lock up the bike. They can walk for a week. There is no need for any argument because they already knew that that was the rule.

Last, please don’t buy a bike two sizes too big. Your child will fall off. Children should be able to place the balls of their feet on the ground while their rump is on the seat, and the whole foot flat on the ground when they are standing over the crossbar. An extra bike or two over the years is cheaper than a broken child.

Then, within the confines of the rules, adventure awaits!

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