Each year approximately 300,000 children end up in the emergency room due to a bicycle injury. Some of these injuries are serious brain injuries and require extended hospitalization. However, bicycle riding is a lot of fun and all children should be given the opportunity to learn how to ride a two wheeler safely. Consider the following tips for preventing injury as your child learns to bike.
Proper Size Bike
It is important to select the properly sized bike for your child as this will help keep them safe when learning to ride. They will be more likely to fall on a bicycle that is too big because they won't be able to use their feet to catch themselves. They will also find it difficult to keep a large bicycle balanced. To judge the appropriate size have your child stand straddling the top bar of the bike with both feet flat on the ground. Look for a bicycle that allows 1 to 3 inches of space between your child and the top of the bar. If you are unable to find the exact size it is better to select a slightly small bicycle than a slightly large one.
It is also necessary to verify the bicycle is in good condition prior to use. Make sure the seat, handlebars and wheels are all on tightly. Verify the brakes are working properly and check tires for correct air tire pressure.
Appropriate Protective Equipment
The number one rule of biking is to always wear a helmet. In many states it is the law. Have your child fitted with a proper helmet before you begin teaching them how to ride a bike. When the helmet is strapped on it should not slide around their head. It should fit snuggly. Look for a helmet with a sticker that indicates it has met the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Emphasize to your child that they must wear their helmet every time they go for a ride, even if it will be a short one.
Wear reflective clothing so cars can easily see you and your child. It is recommended you bicycle during daylight hours for best visibility.
Verify the clothes your child is wearing are appropriate. They should not be too loose, particularly pant legs, so they don't get caught in the bike chain.
Have your child wear sneakers so their feet grip the pedals. Don't ever allow them to ride barefoot and sandals are not recommended.
Consider Location to Learn
A path specifically for bicycles or an unused parking lot are ideal locations for learning to ride a bike because you won't have to contend with vehicles. Bike paths are very popular and you may find one near your home. If not look for a school parking lot when school is out of session. Empty tennis courts are also a good choice. This will provide a large place to practice biking skills. Before setting out keep in mind the following obstacles that can cause falls:
- Big puddles
- Gravel or rocks
- Wet leaves
- Changes in the road surface
- Storm drains
- Other people
Keep an eye out for these hazards and teach your child to avoid them when biking.
Include Road Rules
Once your child has learned how to ride independently on a bicycle you may be ready for a family bicycle ride on a road. Make sure your child is aware of the rules of the road before you set out. Here are typical road rules that you should share with your child.
- Always have both hands on the handlebars.
- Only cross the road at intersections and always stop and check for traffic in both directions before crossing.
- Follow all traffic signals (go on green and stop on red).
- Ride in the same direction as traffic.
- If possible use bike lanes.
- Leave space between your bike and parked cars so you aren't hit with a door that suddenly opens.
- Ride single-file.
- Use appropriate hand signals to indicate to traffic when you plan to make a turn.
- Always wear your helmet!
In addition to verifying they understand the rules before going for a ride on the road, you should also verify they have the ability to stop the bicycle immediately. This way if a car pulls out in front of them, they can come to a stop before impacting the car. One game you can play is put a cracker on the ground and have them practice bicycling up to the cracker and stopping just before impacting it with the wheel. This will help your child get a feel for the distance necessary to come to a stop.
Enjoy teaching your child to ride a bicycle. By following the above tips you will reduce the risk your child is injured while bicycling. If you are faced with an unfortunate bicycle accident don't hesitate to contact us as we can help determine if someone was negligent. If negligence did occur we can help you fight for compensation to cover any medical bills or other expenditures.