by Melissa Jaramillo and Julie Snyder
A new tricycle or the "ultimate" two-wheeler -- learning to ride a bike is most definitely a memorable moment in every child's life! Who can't remember enjoying whizzing along, feeling the wind whip at your face? Each child able to pedal is thrilled by his/her accomplishment and rightfully so!
Bike riding is meant to be fun. Certainly, we as parents may have never worn a safety helmet, were never worried about reflectors, proper attire, or any of the other common protections recommended today. Does that mean we should ignore them for our own children? Well, think about it -- years ago kids rode in cars without seat belts, much less a car seat. Why bother, right?
Parents aren't always popular when opting to insist on bike safety. Unfortunately, every year over 175,000 kids must visit the emergency room due to a bicycle related injury. Some of these injuries are so serious that the children die, most often as a result of head injury.
Head injuries generally mean brain injuries. From those that survive, many experience a severe drop in their quality of life. When we know that a safety helmet, fitted and worn properly, can reduce the risk of trauma to the head tremendously it makes no sense to ignore! Together let's take a look at the "Top Four Bike Safety Tips."
Safe Equipment!: Please be sure to have the proper size bike for your child. Riding a bike that is either too big or too small can result in a crash! A general rule of thumb is when standing there should be a 1 - 3 inch gap between your child and the top bar. Reflectors should be on both the front and back of the bicycle. Check regularly to insure that seats, chains, handlebars and brakes are in working order and that the tires are properly inflated.
Wear a Helmet: Helmets today are lightweight, ventilated, and offer a wide selection of cool designs! Helmets offer protection against permanent brain damage or even death. In purchasing a helmet look inside for a sticker that says it meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), ASTM, or Snell B-95. Wear your helmet so that it fits level and covers your forehead. Always have the straps fastened. Consider this as a part of your bike. No helmet? No ride!
*Note: Parents, you should set a good example by always wearing a helmet yourself. (Remember, actions speak louder than words!)
*Note: Children riding in an infant/child carrier should wear properly fitting helmets.
Proper Clothing: Bright colors offer an additional way for cars to see you! Choose clothes that are fitted and comfortable; not loose (particularly beware of flared pant legs or long skirts that may become trapped in the chain -- personal experience, it is not fun!) Again, do not wear headphones; no hats under helmets. If you carry a book bag or backpack, watch to insure the straps are not dangling. Wear appropriate shoes also (no slick soles, barefoot, slippers, etc.).
Road Safety: Use caution whenever riding on the road. Remember "go with the flow of traffic," just as a car would. Ride single file. Use hand signals when turning and be certain to stop at all stop signs and red lights. The rules of the road apply to cyclists too! Avoid riding at night. It is not safe, even for professional cyclists! Watch for road hazards (potholes, loose gravel, wet leaves, etc.) Don't use the road for tricks and games on bikes. You must be in control and prepared to respond to the traffic around you at all times. LISTEN for cars and other vehicles on the road.(This tip points out that it is unsafe to wear headphones while cycling!) Finally, be prepared to stop!