Bike Safety for Kids
Bicycling offers a myriad of benefits for kids, including improved physical and mental health, opportunities to interact with the outdoors, increased coordination and self-confidence, and more. All told, knowing how to ride a bike can have a profound impact on a child’s life—and at All Kids Bike, we believe it’s a skill to which everyone is entitled.
That being said, like any other sport, biking isn’t without its dangers. According to statistics published by Stanford Medicine, around 254,000 children are injured and 100 are killed each year in bicycle-related accidents.
For that reason, it’s essential that children who learn to ride a bike are taught to do so safely, and that they obey bike safety rules every time they go for a ride. As a parent, you can help ensure their well-being by familiarizing yourself with bicycle safety practices, keeping a watchful eye, and offering reminders and instructions as needed. To that end, we’ve compiled a basic guide to bike safety for kids:
Have the Right Gear
The right safety equipment can mean the difference between a skinned knee and a concussion—or worse. Help your child remain safe by making sure they have all the right protective gear, and that they understand the importance of wearing it every single time. Essential items include:
- A Helmet. Of all the pieces of safety equipment for your child to have, this one is the most important. In fact, a report by the Children’s Safety Network estimated that universal bike helmet use by children would prevent hundreds of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries annually.
Keep in mind that simply having a helmet isn’t enough. For a helmet to be effective, it needs to fit properly, always be buckled, and retain its structural integrity. If your child falls on their head while wearing a helmet or otherwise damages it, it’s time to get a new one.
- Reflective Gear. Reflective or bright clothing is good practice for everyone, but it’s especially critical for kids who live in areas with poor visibility and/or lots of traffic, or who tend to ride in the early morning, evening, or at night. In addition to wearable gear, you might also consider buying a special flashing bike light to attach to your child’s bike.
- Closed-Toe Shoes. For children who have graduated to a pedal bike with a chain, closed-toe shoes ensure that their toes won’t get caught in the chain of the bike, and also that their feet are less likely to be hurt in the event of a fall. For kids who tend to wear dresses or loose-fitting pants, it may also be wise to get them a velcro strap to secure clothing that is in danger of getting caught in the chain.
- Knee, Elbow, and Wrist Guards. While experienced riders may have less need of these, riders who are still a little, shall we say, wobbly might benefit from the extra protection that knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards offer.
- A Correctly-Sized Bike. Riding on an ill-fitting bike can make balancing and pedaling more difficult, which in turn can increase the likelihood of falls. As your child grows, make sure you’re regularly checking that their bike still fits, and making adjustments or replacements as needed. It’s also important to maintain bikes by keeping the tires inflated, oiling the chain regularly, tightening handlebars and seats as needed, and checking the brakes.
Know the Road Rules and Practice Vigilance
Make sure your child is well versed in basic traffic safety rules, such as:
- Always sticking to bike lanes or sidewalks (if available) or remaining well to the side of the road.
- Crossing only at intersections after looking both ways, and never pulling out between parked cars.
- Obeying stop signs, traffic lights, and other signals.
- Avoiding riding too close to parked cars whose doors might open suddenly.
- Riding single-file with other bikers.
- Using hand signals when turning or stopping.
However, in addition to knowing the rules of the road, a big part of bike safety is staying alert and aware of the actions of others. Teach your child to scan the environment around them constantly, and coach them on how to react in the event that an unexpected hazard appears.
Choose Safe Places and Times
In an ideal world, bicyclists would be able to ride anywhere, at any time of day—but unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. Many urban areas don’t have the right kind of infrastructure to support safe biking, and rural or poorly lit areas come with their own set of hazards. In places like these, even the most safety-conscious cyclist can still be at risk.
Warn your child to stay away from areas that are particularly unfriendly to bicycles. Additionally, if the places that they like to ride aren’t well-lit at night, consider imposing a cycling curfew to ensure children aren’t riding after dark.
The “safety in numbers” rule holds true for bicycling as well as other things. If you’re not able to accompany or supervise your child when they ride their bike, encourage them to go with friends. Kids who ride together are better able to look out for one another and, in the event of an accident, can get help for each other.
Learning to ride through structured programs like All Kids Bike is a great way to ensure that your child gets a comprehensive bike safety education. All Kids Bike is a national movement dedicated to bringing the mental and physical benefits of bike riding to every kid in America. Led by the Strider Education Foundation, our mission is to make bicycling skills an integral part of kids’ elementary school education. Our Kindergarten PE Program provides the curriculum, bikes, and safety equipment needed to teach every kindergartner how to ride at no cost to the school itself.
All Kids Bike and the Strider Education Foundation depend on generous contributions from the community to do the important work that we do. Consider donating to a school in your area to support our vision of making this milestone skill accessible to children across the country. Contact us to learn more!