Annually in the United States, approximately 300,000 children are injured in bicycle accidents and require emergency room visits to a hospital, and another 10,000 children must remain in the hospital due to injuries suffered in bike accidents.1 BeSafeChild wants parents, family members and caregivers to know that bicycle safety is very important for young children especially, and here are some tips to help choose a safer, better ride for your kids:
- Research the type and make of bicycle you are considering buying for your child. Check the CPSC.gov recalls website to see any children’s bicycles that have been recalled in the past. Parents may also want to consider a good quality, used bicycle for your child (in which case parents should do a little deeper research to make sure a used bike hasn’t been recalled. (Even though selling recalled products of any kind is illegal, some recalled products, toys and bicycles frequently find their way to yard sales!)
- Consider the area where your child will ride: Up and down the driveway, in a protected area at your home, on a school playground, or on a bicycle path with family and friends.
- Once you have decided on a type and make of bicycle, consider the bicycle’s size and whether it is appropriate for your child. Size, rather than a child’s age, is a better guiding factor for choosing a bicycle for a young child. Can your child comfortably sit and reach the pedals? Seats can be raised and lowered to allow your child to have the right pedal stroke. Can your child stand comfortably when holding and walking beside the bike? Check the comfortability of the bike’s seat too!
- Consider whether your child would do better with a single speed and coaster brakes or gears and hand brakes. My first bike had hand brakes and “foot” brakes (but I’m not sure you will find any of those bikes on the market today!). BeSafeChild thinks that gears and hand brakes are usually better for older or more advanced riders. Most children adapt quickly to the use of “foot” or coaster brakes.
- Consider whether your child will need training wheels at first to help get used to riding a bicycle. [There are balance bicycles which teach children to balance first. Since there are no pedals, children push their feet on the ground to make the bikes go forward. Once the act of balancing is achieved then a child can move up to a bike with pedals.]
- Once you have selected your child’s bike, it’s very important to choose the right bike helmet. According SafeKids’ statistics, only 45 percent of children always wear a helmet! Helmets help protect children from head injuries and in some states they are required by law. Check your state’s helmet law! Helmet fit is important too. Helmets are recommended to fit snugly level on a child’s head, and should not slip or move side to side. Chin straps should always be buckled and form a “V” under a child’s ears.
Every new biking season, take your child’s bike for a bike safety check-up, including tires (condition and inflation), brakes, parts, and oiled chains! BeSafeChild thinks its also good to have a bell on the bicycle and a light on the front and reflectors on the back!
1Kids Health, Bike Safety, The Nemours Foundation, 2013, http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/out/bike_safety.html