Bicycle Safety

Bike crashes are second only to automobiles when it comes to childhood emergency room visits. Every day, about 1,000 kids end up in hospital emergency rooms with injuries from bikes – especially kids ages 5 to 14 who get hurt more often than bikers of any other age. About one kid every day dies of these injuries. Others suffer lifetime problems, such as brain damage or difficulty using their legs.

Helmets are the most important safety item for bicycle riders. Helmets are a necessity - not an accessory! In fact, wearing a helmet can reduce head injuries up to 85 percent.

Parents should follow these simple safety tips before sending their kids out for a bike ride.

The perfect helmet

  • Choose a helmet that meets safety standards.
  • Make sure the helmet fits your child and they are wearing it correctly every time they are on their bike -- even riding in the driveway or down the block.
  • Be an example, adults need to wear helmets too.

Fitting a helmet 

Heads come in many sizes and shapes. You should be prepared for the possibility that the helmet you are trying to fit and may not be compatible with this particular head. You should expect to spend 20 to 30 minutes to get your helmet properly fitted.                                          

You want the helmet to be comfortably touching the head all the way around, level and stable enough to resist even violent shakes or hard blows and stay in place. It should be as low on the head as possible to maximize side coverage, and held level on the head with the strap comfortably snug. Helmets that fit with pads come with at least one set of foam fitting pads, and if you got a second set of thicker pads it can be used to customize the shape.

Position of a helmet

The helmet should be level on the rider's head. If the rider uses glasses, it should sit just above the frame of the glasses. The helmet should sit evenly between the ears and rest low on the forehead so it is barely visible to the rider's eye slightly over the eyebrow. If you walk into a wall, the helmet should hit before your nose does! 

 The” Y” of the side straps should meet just below your ear. The chin strap should be snug against the chin so that when you open your mouth very wide you feel the helmet pull down a little bit.

Tightness of a helmet

Move the helmet side to side and front to back, watching the skin around the rider's eyebrows as it should move slightly with the helmet. You can also have your child shake their head back and forth and up and down as the helmet should go with head. If it does not, the pads are probably too thin in front or back or the helmet may even be too large. Add pads as needed or adjust tightening ring on helmet.

Allow as much as a 30 minutes to get a proper helmet fit. If fitting your child, don't try to rush it as they are trying to go outside to ride. Instead, do it while he or she is watching TV or is relaxed so you have plenty of time. Make sure you secure the adjustments so the helmet is ready for the next ride!

Remember that helmets need to be worn with other sports including riding a scooter, rollerblading, skateboarding, sledding, snow skiing, riding ATVs and horseback riding.

The perfect bike

  • Make sure the bicycle fits your child. If it is too large, it will be difficult for them to control.
  • When sitting on the bike, your child should be able to just about fully extend their legs to reach the pedals when they are in the lowest position.
  • When standing astride the bar with their feet flat on either side, there should be about 1 to 2 inches of space between their crotch and the crossbar for a road bike and 3 to 4 inches for a mountain bike.
  • For kids that are still growing, make sure that their bike's seat post and handlebars can be raised a bit to adjust to their new height.

The perfect bike rider

  • Teach your children to Stop and Look Left-Right-Left before crossing the street, when leaving your driveway or an alley. Some people in cars just don't see cyclists.
  • Always ride on the right side of the street in the same direction as the traffic. Never ride against traffic.
  • If cycling with friends, have everyone ride single file
  • Kids 10 and younger should ride on the sidewalks whenever possible.
  • Never let your child ride at night or with head phones.
  • Let your child know the safe places they can ride: parks, bike trails and sidewalks.
  • Never let your child give someone a ride on their bike, like on the handlebars or standing on the back wheel.

Remember riding bikes can be a fun way for kids and yourself to get exercise when done safely.

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