What’s the most dangerous recreational sport? Gator wrestling? Think again. Bike riding sends more kids ages 5-14 to the ER than any other activity. But don’t go locking up the bikes just yet. Safe bike riding is possible with the following tips.
- Wearing a bike helmet is the best way to reduce head injuries and chance of death from bike accidents. Read more about helmets and how they should fit here.
- Selecting the right bicycle for your child’s age and size is often overlooked. Find out what to look for in a bike here.
- Check your child’s bike regularly, and make sure the tires are properly inflated and secure.
- Make sure your children wear closed-toed shoes (like sneakers) and avoid long or loose clothing that may get caught in bike chains and wheel spokes.
- It is best for kids to ride their bikes when it’s sunny and dry. However, if riding in the rain or dark is unavoidable, make sure that your kids wear reflective clothes and ride bikes with headlights and reflectors, so drivers and pedestrians can clearly see them.
- Make a one-bike, one-rider rule for your children. Children should not ride on, or let others ride on, handlebars or pegs while another person pedals.
- Children younger than 1 should not be a passenger on any kind of bike (even bike carriers or trailers). Their neck muscles may be too weak to control their heads during stops (especially if they have the added weight of a helmet).
- Teach kids to walk their bikes across streets and intersections. Have children look both ways before crossing. Teach them to make eye contact with drivers, to be sure that the drivers see them before crossing the street.
- Every child is different, but usually those younger than 10 should bike on sidewalks, bike paths, or in parks. Once your child fully understands the traffic rules and is aware of the cars around them, s/he can more safely bike in the street.
- Riding on the right side of the road, with traffic—not against it—is safest. Children should stay as far to the right as possible. They should learn to use the correct hand signals to let drivers know what they are about to do. Teach them to obey all traffic signals and stop signs.
- Make sure your child knows to keep two hands on the bike at all times—carrying other objects or using a phone prevents them from doing this. Caregivers can lead by example to make sure something like texting doesn’t lead to an accident.
- Teach your child to stay alert and watch for cars, trucks and other people biking, wherever they ride. Keep an eye out for parked cars, and for cars coming out of driveways. For more on driveway safety, go here.
Almost 400,000 children younger than 19 are treated in the ER every year for bicycle-related injuries.
- Nationwide Children’s Hospital
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