Help keep kids safe by reviewing bicycle safety
By Katy Smith, Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant
MedCentral Pediatric Therapy
It looks like it is finally going to stay nice and everyone is just itching to be outside and playing. Time to get the bikes out, dusted off, and down the road! Here are some tips to make the biking season start well and keep it going great all summer long:
- Make sure your child's bike is the proper size. A bike that is too big or too small will be hard to control. When standing on the ground there should be a 1-3 inch gap between the child and the top bar. She will need more room if he or she is riding a mountain bike.
- Check to see if your child's bike seat is adjusted to the proper height. When he is sitting on the seat with his foot on the pedal, his leg should be slightly bent. This will help avoid knee strain.
- Make sure there is a reflector on the front and rear of the bike. The rear should be red and should be at least three inches across. Make sure the reflector is pointed straight back to reflect the headlights of cars that are coming up behind your child.
- Check the bike's chain to make sure it's clean and lubricated. If it isn't, take it to the local bike shop for a checkup.
- Check your child's brakes for even pressure. They should make the back wheels skid on dry pavement, but the brakes should not stick.
- Make sure tires are properly inflated.
Try the helmet on. It should fit snugly and not be too loose or too tight. Put the helmet straps on. They should come all the way around the ears and under the chin. The strap should not be too tight, or they will cut into your child's skin. They should be adjustable periodically so that the helmet can be used for a longer time (from 3 to 5 years).
The helmet should go all the way around your child's head comfortably, and should cover his or her forehead, up to 1 inch above your eyes.
One of the most important criteria while selecting a helmet is to make sure it meets the safety standards specified by ANSI, Snell or CPSC. Check the inside of the helmet for a safety sticker to make sure.
It's critical that your child's bicycle helmet fit properly. Here, a volunteer checks a youngster's fit during MedCentral Pediatric Therapy's 2009 Learn to Ride a Bike Day. The 2010 event is scheduled for June 5.
- Helmets come in 2 types - hard shell helmets and soft shell helmets. The hard ones are covered with a hard plastic or fiberglass shell, which enclose the polystyrene layer inside. The soft ones have a thick layer of polystyrene covered with cloth or a surface coating which protects the head in case of a fall. Both these helmets are approved, and come equally recommended.
- You can select a helmet made for cycling, or a multipurpose helmet appropriate for other sports, such as skateboarding. But make sure your child doesn't use a cycling helmet for other sports.
- Choose a brightly colored helmet. They are easier to see on the road and thus are safer.
A few more pointers to follow:
- Encourage your child to pick out her own helmet. This way she will probably want to wear it helmet more.
- Regularly inspect the helmet for cracks or chips.
- Make sure that your child doesn't wear anything under the helmet, including caps and barrettes.
- Replace the helmet after a crash or collision. Helmets should also be replaced every 3-5 years.
Rules of the Road
How many of these rules do you already follow?
- Always ride on the right side of the road. Remember to 'go with the flow'. Never, ever ride against traffic. Cars will not be expecting to find a biker when they round a corner or go over a hill.
- Ride single file. When passing other bikers or pedestrians, let them know your position by shouting out something like, 'On your left!'
- Always check behind you when changing lanes.
- Watch out for dangerous things in the roadway. Road litter, potholes, gravel and storm gates can all cause you to lose control.
- Stop at all stop signs and streetlights. Be extra careful at crossroads.
- Always signal before making a left or right turn. To make a left turn, look behind you, hold your left arm straight out and proceed carefully. For a right turn, hold you left arm out and up in an 'L' shape.
- Keep control of your bike. Don't swerve or make sudden turns. Drivers might not be able to react fast enough to avoid colliding with you.
- Ride at least 3 feet away from parked cars. Someone could open their door unexpectedly and, well, yikes!
- Listen for cars approaching from the side or behind you.
- Don't follow cars too closely (you might be in their blind spot).
- Know your road signs and obey them. A smart biker follows the rules of the road.
- Always be prepared to stop. Keep your hands on or close to the brakes.
- Never ride alone! Always ride with a parent or other responsible adult.
These tips are sure to keep you safe and enjoying long rides this summer.
If your child is a new rider age 4 or up and would like to get rid of training wheels, schedule an appointment for MedCentral Pediatric Therapy's Learn to Ride a Bike Day on June 5. We'll have gift bags for participants and door prizes, with the grand prize of a new bike from Y-Not Cycling and Fitness. Bike Day is free, but is limited to the first 100 participants. Appointments are available from 8 a.m. through 1 p.m. and are about 30 minutes long. Sign up by calling 419-520-2386. Your child should wear comfortable clothing and proper footwear, and you should bring his bike, helmet and any other safety gear he is comfortable with.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Bicycle Helmets Safety Institute