Bike safety tips for tots

LEARNING to ride a bike is a rite of passage over the summer, and many little kids have been using the time at home to perfect this skill. But bike riding isn't just about learning how to steer, brake and pedal, there are other safety practices you should be keeping in mind to keep your little one safe.

Here are some bike safety tips from Safe Kids Worldwide, a non-profit that works with an extensive network of more than 400 coalitions in the United States, and with partners in more than 30 countries to reduce traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more.

Choose the right bike

Ensure proper bike fit by bringing the child along when shopping for a bike. Select one that is the right size for the child, not one he or she will grow into. When children are sitting on the seat of the bicycle, their feet should be able to touch the ground. Before the ride, make sure the reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly, and tyres are tightly secured and properly inflated.

Choose proper clothing

Long or loose clothing can get caught in bike chains or wheel spokes. Dress young kids appropriately to ensure a safe ride. Wear bright colours and use lights, especially when riding at night and in the morning. Reflectors on your clothes and bike will help you be seen.

Get a proper helmet, and gears

A properly fitted helmet is the most effective way to prevent a head injury. Properly fitted helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by at least 45 per cent. Make sure the helmet fits and your child knows how to put it on correctly. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward, backward or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly.

Position the helmet on the child's head. The rim should be one to two finger widths above the eyebrows. Make sure the straps of the helmet form a "V" under the ears when buckled. The strap should be snug but comfortable.

Complement the helmet with elbow and knee pads, to smooth the impact of the inevitable fall from the bike.

Use the sidewalk

Every child is different, but developmentally, it can be hard for kids to judge speed and distance of cars until age 10, so limit riding to sidewalks (although be careful of vehicles in driveways), parks or bike paths until age 10. No matter where you ride, teach your child to stay alert and watch for cars and trucks. If you can't use the sidewalk, ride in the same direction as traffic as far on the left hand side as possible.

Signals

Use hand signals and follow the rules of the road. Be predictable by making sure you ride in a straight line and don't swerve between cars. Teach your kids to make eye contact with drivers. Bikers should make sure drivers are paying attention and are going to stop before they cross the street.

Make it a family affair

Parents, ride with your children. Stick together until you are comfortable that your kids are ready to ride on their own.

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