Bicycle safety tips that every parent should know
With the warm weather upon us and the snow-covered streets a distant memory, one of the rites of spring is children dusting off their bicycles and riding off to school. From a parent’s perspective, you always need to make sure your child rides safely. Children account for 29% of all cycling related hospitalizations. Now is the time to be vigilant in protecting the most precious people in your life.
So what can you do to help your child ride more safely?
- Make sure your child has a helmet. The law states that anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet. It is the only thing protecting your child’s head and brain. In children, ten and younger, helmets can reduce the severity of head injuries by almost 60%. Unfortunately, there is a correlation between speed and age. According to Rachel Willard of the Hamilton Health Sciences Hospital Brain Injury clinic, “Older children on average travel between 26 and 35 km per hour…. The faster they go, the more vulnerable they become.”
- Inspect your child’s helmet. As your child grows, it might no longer fit properly. The helmet should sit comfortably on the top of the head and not wobble forward or backwards. When done up, the bottom strap shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. You should be able to insert two fingers between the strap and the neck. The outer shell of the helmet should be in good shape. If the helmet receives a blow, or if the inside softer shell is damaged it can be compromised. In either case, the helmet should be replaced.
- Equip your child’s bike so it can be seen and heard. Bicycles should have bells to alert pedestrians, other bicyclists, and motorists to their presence. At night, lights, and reflective tape should be used. Officer Stibbe of the Metro Toronto Police commented that after an accident most car drivers say they did not see the cyclist. Bicycle safety equipment is available in bike shops: don’t let your child leave home without them.
- Make sure your child’s bicycle is in good shape before letting your child take it out. Bicycles need to be inspected. They take a lot of abuse over the course of a season. If necessary, take the bike to a shop and have it professionally maintained. Checking brakes, tires, steering, chains, etc., should be routine before your child gets onto the bicycle. And while you’re at it, ensure the bicycle is the right size for your child. Bicycles that are too large can be dangerous.
- Lastly, explain to your child that their bicycle is a vehicle. There are very strict laws they need to adhere to once they go on the roadway. When your child rides on the road, the Highway Traffic Act applies. Both you and your child need to understand the rules of the road. More on this later.