Bike Safety 101: How to Protect Your Family

22 Jun Bike Safety 101: How to Protect Your Family

By: Deborah Gulson, MD

Now that it truly feels like summer outside, it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors! There’s no better way to get fresh air and socially-distanced exercise than to go for a bike ride. Bicycling provides excellent cardiovascular exercise, balance skill development and navigation skills.

Unfortunately, when bicycle use increases, so do bicycle injuries. According to the U.S. Dept of Transportation, there are approximately 1,000 bicyclists killed in traffic each year in the United States.

What can we do to protect our family from bicycle injuries?

Wear the right gear and insist that everyone in your family do the same. You wouldn’t send your child to their sports practice in flip flops and a dress, so don’t let them bicycle in those clothes either:

  • Avoid loose fitting pants and skirts that can get caught in the chain or spokes
  • Wear closed toe shoes that stay secure on the foot
  • Most importantly, insist that every youth and adult in your family wear bicycle helmets EVERY time they ride their bike, and make sure it fits appropriately

Do bike helmets really work?

The answer is a resounding YES! Head injury is the number one cause of mortality in bicycle accidents. Your child’s skin can be stitched and broken bones can be casted but head trauma can lead to fatal or everlasting outcomes. Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by between 60 to 90%

Isn’t it enough that I put my young child in a bike helmet?  I know how to ride and don’t need to wear one.

Please always wear your own bicycle helmet too! You may be surprised to learn that teens and adults are more likely to be seriously injured in bicycle accidents than young children, for

small children are close to the ground and fall on a regular basis. Teens and adults have further to fall, ride at higher speeds, and have a higher center of gravity.

Every time we cross a street or turn a corner, we have the potential to be struck by a motor vehicle. Lead by example: If your child grows up thinking that bike helmets are “babyish” they will want to stop using theirs just at the age when they are at the highest risk of injury. 80% of teens surveyed said that their parents rules regarding wearing bike helmets influenced their decision to wear one.

As long as we can see the car, everything’s okay, right?

Though it’s helpful that the bicyclist sees an automobile, it’s more important that the vehicle sees the bicyclist.

  • Teach your child that every car is a potential danger- even those just pulling out of driveways.
  • Your child should be told that a driver who does not make eye contact with them has perhaps not seen them.
  • The majority of serious accidents happen in the evening hours at times of reduced visibility.
  • Sometimes we end up riding home at dusk or dark even when we didn’t plan it that way, so every bike should be equipped with reflectors and lights. 
  • Reflectors and lights can also be added to clothing and onto helmets 

Is listening to music while cycling reasonable?

Being aware of one’s surroundings is critical to bicycling safely:

  • Teach your kids to avoid using earbuds while they ride. Vehicles and other cyclists come up behind us and we need to be able to hear them approach.

Are there bicycling rules of the road?

Just like brake lights and turning indicators help drivers avoid collision, communication between cyclists does the same.

  • There are bicycling rules of the road and you may be the only one to teach your child these important tools.
  • A cyclist is expected to stay to the right and pass on the left.
  • The call “on your left” is commonly used to announce passing.
  • Hand signals are used to indicate stopping and turning

For more information on bike safety, visit https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/bike-safety.html.

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