It’s nothing short of nerve wracking when you realize that your child is old enough to ride around on their own bicycle. Crazy drivers, other pedestrians, neighborhood pets, the list of dangers goes on and on, but you can’t keep your child at home forever. So, it is best to take some time to consider ways you can ensure your child’s safety once they’ve reached an age that allows them free rein over the neighborhood bike paths.
How to Keep Young Children Safe when Riding on a Bicycle?
There are a number of important steps that parents should take to help keep their children safe when riding on a bicycle around the neighborhood. Here are a few of our top recommendations.
- Always wear a properly fitting helmet.
- Ride with your child when you can (or until they are mature enough to ride alone).
- Remain in residential areas and stay on the sidewalk when possible.
- Always pay attention to traffic.
- Wear bright colors and use lights when necessary.
Always Wear a Properly Fitting Helmet
It is so important that children always wear a properly fitting helmet. Helmets can protect children from severe injury, such as a traumatic brain injury. Bicycle falls happen often and even a minor one could result in a head injury so it isn’t worth the risk of allowing your child to ride without a helmet. Check to make sure that the straps fit snugly and comfortably around your child’s chin and that the helmet fits securely to their head.
Ride with Your Child When You Can
You should always accompany your child on bicycle rides until you are sure that they’re old enough to do so on their own. By riding near your child you can serve as an extra pair of eyes looking out for traffic and any other risk factors. Bike riding with your child is also a fun and healthy activity that the two of you can do together. This offers the perfect opportunity to teach your child how to safely ride their bike on the sidewalk, how to navigate a crosswalk, and the importance of watching out for erratic drivers.
Remain in Residential Areas and Stay on the Sidewalk
It is important to always ride bikes with your child in a residential area with minimal vehicular traffic, especially when they’re first learning how to ride their bike. If you live in a walkable neighborhood, then this offers the perfect atmosphere to start teaching your child how to safely ride their bike. If you don’t live in a residential area, then you’ll want to take your bikes to a safe, low traffic area such as a park. Strive to find a pedestrian-friendly area with plenty of sidewalks. Although some areas don’t allow bike riding on sidewalks, you should remain on a sidewalk with your child when they’re first starting to ride their bike.
Always Pay Attention to Traffic
You should always ride your bike as if drivers cannot see you and teach your child to do the same. Never assume that a car is stopping for you when crossing the road, wait until you are absolutely certain. Teach your child that some drivers can drive too fast or dangerously and it is important to always be paying attention to vehicular traffic. You should also explain to your child to look out for foot traffic as well. Pedestrians and dog walkers can get in the way of bike riders, so you should show your child how to stop for pedestrians and how to move around them when riding on the sidewalk.
Wear Bright Colors and Use Lights When Necessary
As a bicycle rider, you and your child should try to be as visible to the cars on the road as possible. You should always wear bright colors and use lights, if you’re ever riding in the evening. Ride your bicycles in well-lit areas with minimal traffic and always pay attention. Reflectors on clothes, shoes, and bikes are also very helpful in preventing a bicycle accident.
When are Kids Old Enough to Ride Their Bike Alone?
Your child may be progressing in their bicycle skills quickly, causing you to wonder when they’ll be old enough to bike by themselves. Typically, children are ready for this type of independence around the age of 10 years old, but every child is different and it is important to use your best judgement as the parent.
Children will need plenty of reinforcement in order to fully understand the importance of traffic rules and other bicycle safety concepts. To help determine if your child is ready to ride their bike on their own, go out for a ride with them and observe how they handle certain situations such as crossing the street. Also pay attention to their general judgement skills to help figure out if they’re ready for this level of independence.
When it does come time to allow your child to ride their bike on their own, start with a very short distance such as down to the end of the road and back and see how they do. Be very firm with setting boundaries and rules when it comes to independent bicycle riding. You can start with very firm rules about bike riding and only allow your child to ride short distances, and slowly allow them more and more independence as they show you that they are ready. If your child has neighborhood friends, you can also have them ride with a friend to ensure that they aren’t entirely alone when bike riding.
Bike riding is an entertaining and super beneficial activity for children of all ages since it offers an opportunity for exercise and gives your child a chance to be outside. Going out for a bicycle ride is also a great activity to do as a family. It is important to practice safety precautions when bike riding with children and teach them to follow suit. Overtime, children will develop better judgement skills and eventually possess the independence to ride their bike alone but it is important to ease into this transition and be very firm with certain rules when first starting out.
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