Seven Tips for Safe and Fun Bike Riding
Ever since I was old enough to walk, I was put on a bike with training wheels, given the first push and off I went. Times have changed for the better and that’s a good thing. Bike safety has gotten a huge push in recent years, thanks to concerns about climate change and the rise of low and no-emission transportation modes. For example, Los Angeles Metro launched the “Every lane is a bike lane” campaign in late March to increase awareness of cyclists’ rights to the road. Even though these great changes are taking place, every day, more than 600 children are injured due to bicycle-related crashes. Young children and even experienced teenagers are at risk for biking injuries. This is what inspired me to write my first RN Remedies post. As a dedicated cyclist and dad, I want you to stay informed on how to have a fun and safe bike riding experience with your family.
Summer is a great time for bike riding and now is the time to start tuning up your bikes, checking helmet sizes and reviewing the rules of the road. Bike safety is a passion for me and the numerous parent-led groups connected to various bike clubs throughout Los Angeles. It is a healthy and fun activity but make sure you follow these safety tips when you and your family ride bikes.
If your child is under 18, it is a requirement to wear a helmet and if you wear one, you’re setting a good example too.
1. Safety ABC's.
Make sure your bike is in safe riding condition by using the ABC quick check:
- Air. Do the tires have enough air? Check the side of the bike tires for the appropriate tire pressure.
- Brakes. Are the breaks working properly?
- Check the chains. The chains should not be rusty or the links frozen. Before your ride, lube the chain. Use the bike’s quick release to remove the wheels without using tools. Before you ride, make sure the quick release is tight.
Also, biking is safe and fun! Walk on the sidewalk and cross at intersections.
2. Bike riding etiquette
Always ride WITH the flow of traffic. Remember to stop at all stop signs and red lights, just like cars do. Let people see you by wearing reflectors at night or a light on the bike’s handlebars. The safest place to ride on a road is the right side. Let drivers see you and use hand signals when you are making a turn or merging. Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you. Road rules apply to you and your kids, so follow lane and highway markings. Just as if you were a vehicle, ride single file.
3. Wear a helmet. Always!
Protect your brain because this is the most important thing you can bring to any activity. If your child is under 18, it is a requirement to wear a helmet and if you wear one, you’re setting a good example too. My fellow RN Remedies blogger, Cheryl, wrote about helmet safety and proper fit. I encourage you to check out her blog post too.
If the helmet is too small, it’s time to buy a new one. You can also check online for organizations that provide reduced-cost or free helmets for kids. Never use a used and worn-out helmet. Even one fall can crack a helmet and make it unsafe to use again. It is a good idea to have identification within a helmet. If you or your child are in an emergency situation and not able to speak for yourselves, this could help emergency personal identify you and your child. It also is a great way to notify authorities of preexisting conditions such as diabetes or allergies. Many bike shops have simple ID kits that fit inside helmets. Even duct tape with a name and phone number on it is better than nothing.
4. Don’t forget water
This is especially important during the summer! Toss a water bottle in your bike’s basket or strap one to the frame if you’re planning to be out for more than 30 minutes, especially when your kids are with you. If you forget water, try to find a city park or a fountain with clean water. It is very important to hydrate, hydrate and hydrate.
5. Shoe laces should be tied
Untied or very long shoe laces can get caught on pedals and gears, which can cause an accident. Try to avoid riding in flip-flops, which don’t have the support or coverage to keep your feet safe.
6. Check the weather forecast
It’s nice to know what to expect before riding bikes with your family. You may not know it now, but trust me, there’s a big difference between 95° and 100°. Knowing what to expect with the weather keeps you informed if there is harsh summer wind or a storm headed your way. Make sunscreen a priority too, whether it’s sunny or overcast. Many times people don’t realize how long they are bike riding and how much direct and indirect sunlight they are exposed to and they find out with a sunburn.
7. Know when to ride on the street or sidewalk
Riding through neighborhoods is a smart idea because quiet neighborhood streets aren’t as busy, but it’s doubly awesome in the summers because your neighborhood has trees and trees equal shade. Why not park the bikes under a tree to cool off a bit, catch your breath and drink some of that precious water.
Did you know the safest place for bike riding is on the street? This is because bicycles are expected to follow the same rules of the road as drivers and ride in the same direction. If your child is younger than 10, they may not be old enough to make bike safety decisions. In this case encourage them to ride on the sidewalk. Take time to review all rules of the road with your child, including hand signals, traffic rules and the importance of not riding a bike after dark.
Bike riding is a fun and healthy activity to enjoy with your family. Teach your kids to “Be cool,” because a bicycle is not a toy; it’s a vehicle! That’s why following the safety tips, above, is recommended. Good luck with that summer bike riding! Keep the wind beneath your pedals and the rubber to the road!
Brought to you in conjunction with the the Kohl's Safety and Injury Prevention Program to ensure that you and your family have an enjoyable and safe bike ride.