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Kids, Bikes and Christmas!

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Kids, Bikes and Christmas

Christmas is here, and you’ve decided to gift your child a bike!  (Lucky kids!)

Among the hustle and bustle of gift-giving - kids running amok with holiday excitement - parents sometimes forget to cover the importance of bike safety.

Let me help you out here!

I’ve drafted some helpful how-to’s on bike safety, specifically tailored around children’s needs.

Have a look.  Take some notes.

I’m certain you’ll find some useful tips to ensure your children get the most of out of their new Christmas gift.

(Now all that’s left to do is to find a place to hide it until December 25th!)

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It can be easy for children—and even parents—to see their bicycle as a toy. The reality is that bikes are not toys. In fact, more children ages 5 to 14 go to hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with bicycles than with any other sport. Despite the obvious dangers, riding a bike is a wonderful activity for kids.

For younger kids, it improves coordination, provides exercise and is a fun activity that the whole family can do together. For older kids, riding a bike gives them the chance to be independent. You can teach your kids to understand that biking should be a whole lot of fun—with a healthy dose of caution.

As a parent, you can help them…

…understand their limitations

Remember—children are not small adults. Children simply do not have the cognitive abilities of adult riders.

…know their abilities

Though each child is different, there are some general guidelines about the abilities of children at different ages.  For a comprehensive Age & Stage outline, click here.

  • Ages 1 to 5: Most children ages 5 and under are not ready to ride a bike. However, this is a great time to educate them about bike safety while they are passengers on your bike!
  • Ages 5 to 8: Children at this age should always be supervised when they ride.  Ensure your child develops healthy riding skills - avoiding obstacles in the road, riding in the straight line while looking behind.  This is a great age to familiarize them with the equipment on the bike, and the importance of their helmet.
  • Ages 9 to 12: There is no set age for determining whether a child is ready to ride on the road.  However, most children in this age group have developed the skills to ride on arterial roads.  Beginner cyclists, no matter their age, should always ride with supervision. Emphasize the ​importance of wearing a helmet.  Many preteens and teens will begin to think helmets are uncool.  Here are some tips on how to get around this dangerous notion.
  • Ages 13-17:  Teen cyclists have much more independence. Stress that this means that they also have more responsibility as well.  As they learn to drive a car, remind them of what they learned as a cyclist, and how to keep an eye out for cyclists on the road.

…set the rules

It’s never too early to teach children the rules of safety.  Even if they’re simply a passenger on your bike, you can start pointing out the rules of the road as you ride. Once they have their own bike, you should go over this list with them, and make sure to review real-world examples when you’re actually on the road. Click here to view our essential list of bicycle safety rules for children.

…get the right equipment

Parents should make sure that their child’s bike is the right size. Buy a bike that reflects their current age, not something they’ll “grow into.” Your child should be able to place his or her feet on the ground while seated, and with an inch or two of clearance while straddling the crossbar. Make sure that your child can grasp the hand brakes, if the bike has them, and can also apply sufficient force to stop the bike completely. Make sure they can be heard and seen—equip the bike with front and rear lights, reflectors for pedals and wheels, as well as a bell or horn.

…make sure they wear a helmet

Wearing a helmet can mean the difference between walking away from an accident with light injuries and death or debilitating injury. According to the CDC, wearing a helmet can reduce brain injury by 88 percent, and facial injury by 65 percent. Getting your kids and teens to wear their helmets can be challenging, however.

Click here for some helpful tips on getting your children to wear their helmets.

And finally…

…do regular safety checks

Before every ride, do a safety check with your children. Ensure the wheels, seat and handlebars are securely fastened but can move freely. Test the hand brakes. Make sure the tires are properly inflated. Inspect the brake pads, chain and wheels for any dirt that might clog their operation.  Confirm that the chain is well oiled and secure.  Often a major oversight that can result in a fall, ensure that your child’s clothing is not too loose and bind up shoelaces so they will not catch in the chain.

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Mr. Ghabour has written several books on matters of personal injury, including A Basic Guide to Injured Bicyclists, a relevant and helpful resource.  Much of this information in this post can be found in this informative book.  Click here to receive a free copy of A Basic Guide to Injured Bicyclists.

For more on the subject Bicycle Safety, visit our Library or drop us a line!  We’d love to hear from you.

Joseph M. Ghabour
Auto, Bus, Pedestrian, Motorcycle accident, medical malpractice and worker's compensation attorney.
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