The bicycle is the first vehicle your child will likely ride in traffic. If she learns not to see a bike as a toy but rather as a means of transportation that comes with a number of rules, cycling will become not only an enjoyable pastime but also a safe hobby. There are a number of tips on kids' bicycle safety, and it is a good idea to familiarize yourself and your child with the most important ones.
Proper Cycling Attire
Teach your child how to dress appropriately. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns parents that a properly fitting helmet is a crucial component to bicycle safety. Make sure your child's helmet is snug but not overly tight. It should be about one to two inches above the child's eyebrow and buckle underneath the chin. Use the adjustable pads to properly fit the helmet to your child's head shape.
In addition to a helmet, instruct the child to wear comfortable clothes that are devoid of extra material, which might get tangled in the spokes. Provide your child with close-toed shoes whenever cycling; this protects his toes from getting caught in the spokes or the pedal from getting hooked to a sandal strap. He should wear light-colored clothes that make him easier to see during twilight hours or inclement weather.
Equip your child's bike with safety gear. This includes installing a wide-angle bike mirror, a red rear flasher bike light and a bright headlight. These items enhance your child's ability to see what is ahead and to be seen by motorists. This is especially true when she is stopped at an intersection or traffic light; the reflectors that come standard with many child-sized bikes are insufficient to direct motorists' attention to the presence of a stationary bicycle.
Practice Bicycle Safety before Hitting the Road
Parents often teach children to ride their bikes in a driveway or on the sidewalk, but it is a good idea to give them more room. Take your child to a park with an open tennis court or basketball area, and instruct him to ride as close to a line as possible. Show him how to use his hands to signal before making a left or right turn. Explain that before any driveway or alley he needs to slow and ensure that no motorist will emerge. He can practice stopping and restarting his ride by using the various lines on the sports courts.
Model proper behavior at a crosswalk, stop sign and traffic light. Remind your child that when riding in a group, he is responsible for his traffic decisions and should not rely on others. For example, if the light turns red but one or more riders make it across the street safely just beforehand, it is not a good idea to follow. Instead, instill in your child the understanding that he must wait until the light turns green again and then rejoin his friends.
Article Written By Sylvia Cochran
Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.