Health Education

Bicycle Safety

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How early can children safely ride a bicycle?

Riding a tricycle or bicycle is not age dependent but developmentally determined. As soon as a child has the motor strength to pedal, it is appropriate to use a tricycle. When a tricycle is outgrown, a bicycle with training wheels is appropriate.

Why wear a helmet?

The head is the most important part of our body. It contains eyes to see, a nose to smell, ears to hear, a mouth to eat and a brain to think. Damaging the head, damages all of the above.

How can I get my child to wear a helmet?

  • Wear one yourself. So many parents ride with their children and the children are wearing helmets while the parents are not.
  • Provide positive reinforcement for wearing a helmet.
  • Maintain a strict rule in your house: No helmet, no bike.
  • Encourage your child’s friends to wear a helmet.

How should a helmet fit?

It should fit squarely on your child’s head and cover the top of the forehead. It should not move or slide over the eyes. The chin strap should be snug but not choking.

How early should a child wear a helmet?

Bicycle safety should start at the beginning. Starting a tricycle rider on a helmet sends the message that will be repeated often in this piece, “No helmet, no bike”.

Should my child always wear a helmet while biking?

Many parents say, “But she only rides on the driveway or around the block”. Most accidents occur within 3 miles of home and so helmets should be worn all the time even when cycling on the driveway.

What should I look for in a helmet?

Helmets should meet the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) which can be found on the inside of the helmet. All helmets sold today must meet those standards.

Which way does the helmet point?

The easiest way to tell is by looking for the arrow inside the helmet.

Are all helmets okay for biking?

No. Bike helmets are designed for head first falls at high speeds and are light and well ventilated. Multi-sport helmets are also okay for bike riding.

Can I use a used helmet?

Helmets should be purchased from a bicycle shop or a discount store and must be new, in the package. Helmets that have been through an accident should be disposed and helmets produced before 1999, did not adhere to the same safety standards. Helmets should not be purchased in resale shops or at garage sales.

What is the difference between a hard shell and a soft shell helmet?

Both are acceptable. The hard shell helmets have a hard outer shell of plastic or fiberglass that hold the polystyrene together if you get into a crash. They are more sturdy but heavier and warmer. The soft shell helmets have no outer shell but have an extra thick layer of polystyrene covered by a cloth cover. The cloth cover holds the helmet together on impact and must be worn. Soft shell helmets are lighter than the hard shell helmets but may not hold up as well.

Is it safe for a child to ride as a passenger on an adult’s bike?

Yes, providing they follow the following rules (from the American Academy of Pediatrics):

  • Only adult cyclists should carry young passengers.
  • Avoid busy thoroughfares and choose parks, bike paths or quiet streets.
  • No riding during bad weather.
  • Infants younger than 12 months do not have the back strength to sit in a rear bike seat.
  • Do not carry infants in a backpack on a bicycle.
  • Children between 12 months and 4 years with good back support and whose heads can support a helmet, may be carried in a child trailer or a rear mounted seat.
  • A rear mounted seat must be:
    1. Securely attached over the rear wheel
    2. Have spoke guards to protect feet and hands from being caught in the wheels
    3. Have a high back and sturdy shoulder harness and lap belt that will support a sleeping child.
  • A lightweight infant bike helmet must be worn at all times.
  • The potential for serious injury still exists, so be careful.

How old should a child be before being allowed to ride in the street? This really depends on maturity, traffic patterns and the ability to know the “Rules of the Road”. In general, this is at the same age when children are mature enough to cross major streets which is usually about age 12.

What are the “Rules of the Road”?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the following are the rules:

  • Ride with traffic.
  • Stop and look both ways before entering the street.
  • Stop at all intersections, marked and unmarked.
  • Before turning, use hand signals and look all ways.
  • No riding at dusk or in the dark.

What if a child doesn’t wear a helmet or follow the Rules of the Road?

Your child’s life is too important. Do not hesitate to back up your words by withholding the privilege of bicycle riding for children who ignore the rules.