Bike Safety: Tips Every Parent Needs to Know

Here's how to get your child on the right path for bike season

Bike Safety

Think soft breezes, fresh air and sun-filled afternoons: One of the greatest joys of summer is a leisurely bike ride with the family. But it’s not all fun and games—safety is key when riding bikes. Keep your munchkins safe on their wheels with these important bike safety tips below.

Ready to Roll

While there is no magic age when kids are ready to ride, children begin to develop the motor skills necessary for bike riding at age five or six. That said, they’re not ready at that age to bike alone on city streets and should accompanied by an adult until at least age 10, when they begin to judge traffic safety.

The Safe Kids Canada website suggests the following guidelines for judging when your child is ready to ride on her own:

  • She can ride in a straight line and look over her shoulder without swerving.
  • She knows and follows the rules of the road: She stops her bike at intersections, uses hand signals correctly and wears safety gear at all times.
  • She can make good judgment and avoid unsafe situations. She recognizes and respects hazards of the road and is able to predict what other cars or bikes are going to do.

 

It’s also vital that the rider fits the bike. A good cycling shop should be able to help you find the right size, but a here’s a loose guide: while straddling the seat, your child should be able to place both feet on the ground, and his knees shouldn’t interfere with the handlebars while he’s pedalling.

Use your head

Everybody knows that a helmet is the best way to protect your head while bicycling. But in many places, it’s not just good sense, it’s also the law. Six provinces have helmet laws and a number of municipalities across Canada have passed by-laws. In Ontario and Alberta, riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet. In British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, all riders, regardless of age, are required to use a helmet. Even if you don’t live in one of the above areas, it’s important, especially for young heads, to be protected when riding. Helmets come in many fun colours and patterns to appeal to any taste and start at about $10.

When buying a helmet, look for the standards label. The helmet should be certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). For cycling, make sure your children wear an approved cycling helmet, not one made for another sport. It must be replaced after a crash. Do not buy them a second-hand helmet if you are unsure of its history. Because helmets are relatively inexpensive, it is best to buy a new one.

 

Street Smarts

Here are a few more points to keep in mind before you hit the streets:

  • Don’t try to save money by opting out of accessories. Bikes are quiet on the streets and they can be difficult to see, so it’s very important that the rider has a bike equipped with reflectors at the front and back, a light and a bell or horn.
  • Ride with younger children on paths and in areas away from traffic. Developing motor skills and a high centre of gravity make balance and handling harder for young children so they should practice in a safe area until they (and you) are comfortable.
  • Kids learn by example: when riding with your children on the street take care to follow the rules of the road, use appropriate hand signals, stay in the correct lane of traffic and follow all road signs. Teach your children to do the same at they will become safe cyclists. Consider enrolling your child (and yourself) in a CAN-Bike course, run by the Canadian Cycling Association.

 

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