Learning to ride a bike is a skill that sticks with you for life. Though, no matter how well you master it, there’s no way to control external factors around you that constantly require heightened caution. The safety tips to apply to bike riding are evergreen, they are to be remembered by us as adults, and instilled into our children as soon as they learn how to ride.
A study published in the Accident Analysis & Prevention journal tells us that 2.2 million children ages 5 to 17 landed in the hospital due to bike-related injuries from 2006 to 2015. That’s more than 600 cases per day. Parents, what steps can you take to keep you and your child safe on a bike? Here are a few that will make a difference.
This is thestaple, and perhaps an obvious one, but cannot be stressed enough. A helmet is what draws the line between a few scrapes or bruises and a traumatic brain injury. Looking again to the Accident Analysis & Prevention journal, 10 to 14 year olds more commonly suffer from bike-related brain injuries due to neglecting their helmet. According to Triple A, wearing a helmet reduces injury risk by 85%. Needless to say, your child should never go without a helmet.
This tip is not so traditional, as kids learning to ride bikes likely didn’t have phones 10 years ago. Today is a different story. A bicycle should be thought of as a vehicle. “Don’t text and drive” is a phrase heard almost as commonly as “Wear a helmet,” but once again not said enough! When operating a bicycle, you should be taking in everything that’s around you. Look ahead, spot cars and pedestrians that are out and about, other bikers, animals, the list goes on. Again, think of your bike as a car -- you need to be aware and alert of all surrounding factors.
It’s key to remember to always ride on the right side of the street, in flow with traffic. Good drivers should be aware of bikers, and good bikers should be aware of cars. Everyone doing their due diligence on the roads should make for a safe environment. Speaking of traffic, if able, choose to ride at times when traffic is less than moderate. If there’s no sidewalk to ride on, you adopt the risk of riding side by side vehicles of all sizes. With the proper protection and awareness, you should find yourself riding safely.
Hand signals are common for bikers riding on roads with cars present. These signals can even be beneficial to other bikers and pedestrians. Think of it as the turn signal for your bike, or even a yield sign. If you’re turning right, stick out your right hand before the turn. Same with the left. The same signals go if you’re changing lanes as well. Over communicating every move will ensure a safe ride.
A lot of kids who ride around the neighborhood with their friends often like to deck out their bikes with pegs. Pegs are often attached to trick bikes, and can be placed on the front and back wheels. Trick bikes provide this conversation with a lot more meat, and that opens up the stage to a whole new article for another time. However, pegs are a common toy used on teen bikes. When friends are hanging out and not all have a bike to ride, often times a rider will “peg” their friends around the neighborhood. This includes their passenger standing on the back or front pegs and holding onto either the rider’s shoulders or the front handle bars. Neither is recommended to maintain a safe riding environment. Pegging reduces stability, makes it very easy for the pegee to fall, and, if riding in front, reduces visibility greatly. While it can be fun, perhaps not worth the risk.
External factors aside, if your bike isn’t properly taken care of, that introduces new risks to bike riding. Frequently check that your bike chains are lubricated. It’s common for chains that are on their way to rusting get tangled and caught in the pedals. Above your bike needing maintenance, this can cause a major distraction when operating your bike in the street. You don’t know where you’ll be at the moment in time. Something else that should be checked periodically is your brake pads. A delay in your breaks, even a few seconds, can cause an accident.
Riding your bike for both you and your child should be fun and recreational. However, it does come with responsibility. Applying these safety tips to your ride, as well as instilling them into your child’s biking habits will become second nature when regularly practiced. Let’s keep bike riding safe for you, your children, and all who surround us.