by Kevin B. Doyle
It'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.
We can make biking safer by following these safety tips:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.