Education, Useful tools
Bike Safety for Kids
07 April, 2022
Learning how to ride a bike is a timeless rite of passage – like learning to walk, using the toilet and read and write, it’s an important milestone. Being able to ride a bike allows your children to explore their neighbourhood, visit their friends and find the fun in fitness, so knowing about bike safety is of the utmost importance, too.
Before your child sets out on the road (or, more realistically, the bike path) it’s important they have everything they’ll need for a safe journey. Bicycle safety for kids means not only riding the proper-sized bike, but having a helmet, training wheels, bike lights, bright-coloured clothing and sneakers with good grip.
One of the most important items your child should have is a bike helmet. According to research by the University of New South Wales, cycling fatalities have almost halved since mandatory helmet laws were introduced in the 1990s. And while driver and cyclist awareness are still the most important factors in preventing deaths, wearing a bike helmet also works to reduce the severity of head injuries should a non-fatal accident occur.
So how can you tell that your child’s helmet fits properly? According to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, a bike helmet isn’t something they should ‘grow into’ – getting the right fit then and there is key. They say you should:
- Make sure the helmet fits snugly and cannot move side to side while it’s sitting flat on top of their head
- Use sizing pads if you would like their helmet to fit for longer, while still fitting properly
- Make sure the helmet sits low on their forehead, only one or two finger-widths above their eyebrow (they should be able to see the front rim of their helmet when they look up)
- Buckle the chin strap and tighten it until it fits snug, with no more than one finger being able to fit under it.
Now that they have their helmet, it’s time to find a bike that is the correct size. Bicycle NSW says you want a bike that your child can straddle and clear by around five centimetres while standing upright with their feet flat on the ground. They also shouldn’t hit their knees or legs on the handlebars when riding, and their legs should have slight bend when the pedal is at its closest point to the ground.
Finally, make sure your child can turn the handlebars left and right without overstretching their arms.
It’s also important that your child wears proper clothing before they ride their bike. They should avoid wearing dark clothes in favour of bright colours to ensure they are visible on the roads. They should wear closed-in shoes and riding gloves to prevent injury, too.
Check the Equipment
Feeling like you’ve got all the gear but no idea? Don’t worry – doing a pre-ride safety check is easy. You’ll want to…
- Check the tire pressure by pressing down on top of the wheel and observing and feeling how much air is inside. The recommended pressure (PSI) will be printed on the side of the tire, usually written as a range
- Check the brakes by grasping the front brake levers firmly one at a time and rocking the bike forward and backward, checking for slips or squeaks – do not let your child ride if either brake doesn’t hold firmly
- Check the wheels by spinning them, making sure they feel and sound smooth and aren’t crunchy or grinding at all – if they aren’t smooth, get the bike serviced
- Check the chain for rust – a little bit should be able to be wiped away and lubricated, but a lot probably means you need to replace the chain.
The Road Rules
Just like pedestrians and drivers, cyclists have important road rules that they must follow to ensure bike riding safety. These rules include…
- Using the proper hand signal – arm extended horizontally, hand open, palm facing forward – when you turn
- Following street signs (pointing out street signs and explaining what they mean while you’re driving with your children in the car will help them learn)
- Avoiding being a traffic hazard by staying out of the way of drivers and pedestrians
- Only riding across crossings if you wait for the clear sign to cross safely, come to a complete stop first, give way to any pedestrian and keep left of oncoming bicycle riders.
Tips for Teaching Bicycle Safety to Children
The most important tip for teaching children bicycle safety is to lead by example – explain why you do certain things like stop before a zebra crossing or keep to the left, and make sure you always follow the rules yourself.
Stick to short rides when they’re starting out so that they can properly focus without getting tired. Add treats like a milkshake or a play at the park into your route to help them recuperate and incentivise them to follow the rules.
Allow them to choose their own safe bicycling equipment to help them get involved in the process and make them more excited about bicycle safety.
- Ensure your child has the correct bicycle equipment, including the right size bike, helmet, training wheels, bright coloured clothing and closed-in shoes
- Check that their equipment is in good condition before starting a ride, and get their bike serviced if not
- Teach your children essential road rules like hand signals and reading street signs
- Make bicycle safety fun with treats and by letting them choose their own equipment
Another Australian rite of passage is learning how to swim. Learn about when to start swimming lessons with your child!