Bicycle Safety Tips and Handy How-To's

by Kevin B. Doyle

Family BicyclingIt's sunny and the birds are chirping away. Could a day be more perfect for pulling out the bikes and trikes and taking off on a family ride?

Before your scheduled departure, bicycle safety month reminds us that even with all the fun we'll have, it's still important to be careful.

Bicycles are a terrific and "green" way to travel. The downside is that accidents can happen if rules and safety tips aren't followed. Each year, more than half a million bicyclists visit the hospital when they end up crashing on their bikes. Bicycle safety can lower the risk that you'll be one of those numbers.

Bicycle Safety Tips

We can make biking safer by following these safety tips:

Always Wear a Helmet

A properly fitted helmet can protect your brain and save your life. You've measured everyone's head and bought the correct sizes. How do you know if your child's helmet has been adjusted correctly?

  • Encourage a huge yawn. Does it pull down? If not, tighten the chin strap. You shouldn't be able to get more than one or two fingers between the straps and the chin.
  • Have your child wiggle-waggle the helmet. Does it move more two fingers above the eyebrows? If so, unbuckle, shorten the front strap by moving the slider forward. Readjust the chin strap.
  • Does the helmet rock forward into your child's eyes? If so, unbuckle, tighten the back strap by moving the slider back toward the ear. Readjust the chin strap.
  • Make sure all four straps go through the rubber band. Slide it down toward the buckle.

In spite of buying the most comfortable and cutest helmet ever, your child might still think that helmets are stupid. Although the following demonstration can be messy, it illustrates why smart kids wear helmets. We guarantee after this show, your kids will think twice about not wearing a helmet.

Brains and jello have a similar consistency. Make a batch of jello. Raspberry or strawberry lend authenticity to the show. Pour it into a glass bowl that you do NOT love. Once it's well set, you and your kids (feel free to invite a few friends) head out to the concrete.

Mention that the skull holds the brains a lot like this bowl holds jello. Then explain that even when you aren't biking really fast, your head can hit the ground hard...like this...and (crash) throw the bowl of jello onto the concrete. You'll probably hear gasps at the mess and hear fewer complaints about the helmet. Your neighbors might not be overly thrilled but your point has been made.

Keep Your Bicycle in Good Condition

Adjust the bikes to fit each person. Are you wondering how this is done? Stand over your bike. There should be one to two inches between you and the top bar on a road bike and three to four inches if you're riding a mountain bike.

The seat should be level, front to back and adjusted so that you have a slight bend in your knee when your leg is fully extended. The handlebar should be at the same height as the seat.

You can do this for each person to make sure they are all set.

Before heading out, check the air pressure in your tires and make sure your brakes work, too.

Obey All Traffic Rules

In many states, a bicycle is considered a vehicle and has the same responsibilities as other drivers. When you ride in the street, obey all traffic signals and sign and road markings. Ride near the right-hand edge of the road.

Many experts say that kids under nine don't have the physical or mental development to interact safely in that environment. Be a leader and protector.

Be Seen to Be Safe

Bright colored clothing and reflectors on the bikes make your children easier to spot. Headsets and earphones should be left at home because the music can distract from noises like a car honking its horn. Last thing you want is your child to get startled and veer into traffic.

Cross Streets Carefully

When kids must cross a road, teach them how to look out for cars. Include cross streets, driveways, and parking places in the list of danger spots. Make it fun by creating an interactive game out of the chore.

Watch Out for Obstacles

Whether you'll be riding on a bike path or a road, keep an eye out so you can be avoid things that might cause a fall, spill or worse. These dangers can include:

  • Gravel or rocks
  • Wet leaves
  • Storm drains or slick metal road covers
  • Puddles
  • Dips and drop offs
  • Curbs
  • Little kids in the way

Now that we've gone over all the rules and our handy tips are fresh in your mind, head out and enjoy a cruise with the family. Tell us what your favorite adventure has been!