Whether you’re a parent who loves all thing cycling or someone who simply enjoys a leisurely bike ride every now and again, teaching a child how to ride a bike on their own is a milestone every parent hopes to achieve. Kids earn a sense of freedom when they are able to ride a bike without training wheels or the guiding hand of mom or dad, and parents feel like a special milestone has been reached. While riding a bike comes with many positives, there are some drawbacks as well that parents should recognize when teaching a child to ride. Put simply; safety is key to creating an enjoyable bike experience for children.
A cycle claims specialist in the UK recently funded research relating to bicycle safety among adults and children, and the results highlight important information parents need to be aware of when encouraging their kids to ride on their own. First, the research project states that of the respondents, nearly one-third of cyclists have had an accident resulting in an injury within the last five years. While most injuries were minor, the experience can be traumatic for young cyclists early on in their biking life. The more telling aspect of this statistics is that more than half of accidents involve a motor vehicle. Because cyclists have next to no protection against serious injury, like drivers and passengers of cars do, taking precaution to provide youngsters with safety education surrounding cycling is a must for parents.
Here are a few easy tips parents can follow to help boost the level of safety for children who are just getting started with cycling.
Get the Right Bike
Parents may be tempted to get a bicycle that a child can grow into over time, but most safety advocates agree that this isn’t the right move. Getting a smaller bike that has an adjustable seat and handlebars is the best choice. For reference in starting children off on the right foot, a bike’s seat should be adjusted so that the balls of the child’s feet touch the ground. This gives enough height so that pedaling is easy and knees don’t get in the way of steering.
Keeping it Maintained
A clean bike goes a lot way in maintaining a child’s safety while riding, as dust, dirt, and other debris won’t interfere with steering, braking, or maneuvering when it isn’t present. Similarly, parents should take care to ensure the brakes are always working properly and that the gears shift smoothly. Tires should be properly inflated at all times as well as secured to the frame of the bike.
Wearing Bright Colors
One of the reasons accidents involving cyclists are common is the fact that they are less visible than larger vehicles on the road. Encourage children to wear bright colors while riding during the day, and include reflective clothing if riding at night. For young riders, it is recommended to avoid a bike ride after dusk to be extra cautious.
Head and Eye Gear
Parents should also talk to their children about the importance of head and eye gear while on a bicycle. A helmet is one of the simplest ways to prevent serious head injuries should an accident occur. Getting the right fit is important, along with how to properly wear it during a ride. Sunglasses are a natural addition when riding, but children should also be educated on the benefits of wearing clear or yellow-tinted glasses on gloomy or overcast days. Protective eyewear keeps dirt, debris, and rain out of the child’s eye, which can make all the difference in preventing an accident on the road.
Avoiding Congested Areas
Parents can also help prevent accidents on bicycles by encouraging children to stay on dedicated bike paths or in uncongested neighborhoods and areas. Have a discussion about where it is safe to ride, and use local resources from cities, towns, and park authorities to find the best places to ride in safety.
Following Traffic Safety Rules
The most important step in keeping children safe as they learn to ride a bike is talking with them about the rules of the road. Just like large vehicles, cyclists have a set of instructions they are supposed to follow when using the streets. Children should understand these rules as best they can, and always ride with this guidance in mind.