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MomTalk.com November 19, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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A Bike Safety Guide for Nervous Parents

bikesafety.jpg The snow melted, the weather is turning warm, and now children are zooming through the neighborhood on their bikes. Learning to ride gives children a new source of independence and freedom. And to them, it's great fun.

For parents, however, it's important to remember that a bike is not just another toy. It is, in fact, a vehicle. Startlingly, around 350,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 15 are injured in bike crashes each year...

bikesafety.jpgBy Lisa Hartley

The snow melted, the weather is turning warm, and now children are zooming through the neighborhood on their bikes. Learning to ride gives children a new source of independence and freedom. And to them, it's great fun.

For parents, however, it's important to remember that a bike is not just another toy. It is, in fact, a vehicle. Startlingly, around 350,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 15 are injured in bike crashes each year; another 200 die. Diligent bike shopping, outfitting your children with appropriate safety equipment, and finally, teaching them the safety rules of the road will help minimize the risk and maximize the fun this spring.

Finding a bike
First, it is crucial to buy your child a bike that fits his or her height and capabilities. An ill-fitting bike can be both uncomfortable and dangerous. While most seats are adjustable, avoid the common mistake of buying a large bike for your child to grow into. Your child will have difficulty controlling a bike that is too large, resulting in more falls and crashes. The simplest way to determine if a bike is the right size is to have the child sit on the seat and balance it with both feet resting comfortably on the ground. Neither the child nor the bike should lean to one side to accomplish this.

Also keep in mind the terrain your child will be riding on. Bikes with narrow tires (often referred to as "safety bikes") have small tread and are intended for use on paved roads. If your child will be riding on dirt trails, consider a mountain bike. With wide tires, large tread patterns, more gears, and suspension, mountain bikes are designed for more rugged terrain. Another thing to bear in mind while shopping for a bike is that young children may not have the strength and coordination for hand brakes. Consider a bike with "coaster brakes," which are controlled through the pedals.

Equipping the bike for safety
Once you have picked out a bike for your child, the next step is to get the necessary safety equipment. Of course, the most important piece of equipment is a helmet. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, "In the event of a fall or crash, bicycle helmets reduce the risk of brain injury by almost 90 percent. Nearly 75 percent of bicycle-related fatalities among children could be prevented if they wore helmets."

Ensure that your child's helmet fits properly. The fit should be snug, but not too tight. When sitting on your child's head, the front rim of the helmet should fall just above the eyebrows. With the chin strap unbuckled, have your child shake his head from side to side. If the helmet moves too much, it's too big and, in the event of a fall, won't provide proper protection. Most manufacturers include foam inserts with the helmet; if necessary, use these to adjust the helmet size. Finally, tighten the chin strap so that when the biker's mouth is opened, the helmet presses firmly against the top of his head.

Other safety equipment you will want to consider, especially if your child will be riding at night, include:
• A warning bell or horn
• Chain guard
• Reflectors for the front, sides, and pedals of the bike
• Day-glo safety flag for the back
• Front light (white)
• Back light (red)
• Handle grips

Getting ready to ride
Now that you have the bike and safety equipment and everything is in working order, make sure your child understands your expectations and the rules of the road. Even your youngest cyclist must follow the same traffic signs, signals, and pavement markings as motorists. AAA Minneapolis and its Minneapolis Auto Club Foundation for Safety offer the following tips to share with your child:

1. Always wear a helmet when you ride a bike and make sure to wear it correctly.
2. Stop at all intersections and walk your bike across.
3. Always ride your bike on the right, with traffic.
4. Stop and make sure the roadway is clear before entering from a sidewalk or driveway.
5. Always use proper hand signals when turning or stopping.
6. Unless necessary, avoid riding at night.
7. Give the right-of-way to pedestrians.
8. Pay careful attention to what is happening around you. Watch for opening car doors and other traffic hazards.
9. Do everything you can to make sure motorists see you. For example, wear light or bright colored clothing and install safety flags, reflectors, and lights on your bike.
10. Use bike paths and lightly traveled streets when you can.
11. Keep your bike in good repair. Tell an adult if anything is broken or missing on your bike.
12. When riding with others, ride single file, not side-by-side. Always remember, one seat = one rider!

The statistics for bike injuries and fatalities can be alarming. However, careful bike shopping, proper safety equipment, and an understanding of your expectations and the rules of the road will ensure that your children have fun and stay safe on their bikes this spring.

Lisa Hartley is Coordinator of the Traffic Safety programs at AAA Minneapolis and its Minneapolis Auto Club Foundation for Safety.



Categories: Pre-Schoolers, School-Age, Tweens, Children, Newsletter,


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