Once your child has a bicycle helmet that fits them properly (see my post entitled Bike Safety for details), they are ready to learn some basic bike safety rules. Rather than just discuss these rules with your children and send them out on their own, I would suggest that you go on a bike ride or two, to practice these rules in the real world and solidify them in your child’s mind.
These bike safety tips are provided by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, in cooperation with the Ontario Cycling Association (source: Young Cyclist’s Guide):
- Ride in a straight line on the right side of the road, in the same direction as traffic (usually one half to one metre from the curb or from parked cars).
- Stop at the edge of the road, stop at red lights and stop signs. Look to see if the road is clear. Look all ways.
- Always look over your shoulder behind you before you turn or move out on the road.
- Signal – let drivers know what you are going to do next (click here for a review of bike signals)
- Look ahead down the road to see if there might be danger ahead.
- Get off your bike to cross at a crosswalk or busy street.
In addition, I have included a number of tips of my own (things I found myself teaching my daughter when we were ‘touring the neighbourhood’):
- When coming up to a cross street or corner, slow down and put your hands on your brakes so you are prepared to stop, then look around to make sure there are no cars before you proceed.
- Be aware of cars in driveways to ensure they are not backing up (look for the back-up lights).
- When turning corners, try to stay close to the side and not swing widely into the street.
- If multiple bikers, ride in single file with a decent distance between you and the person in front of you (if they stop suddenly, you will have a better chance of stopping).
- Ride with your hands on the handlebars and don’t carry things while riding. Also, make sure nothing is hanging off your bike, as it may get caught in the spokes, gears, or pedals.
- Make sure pant bottoms are held securely in place so that they don’t get caught on gears or pedals (e.g. I often use a piece of Velco or an elastic).
- Wear proper footwear that is securely fastened to your feet (flip-flops are notorious for falling off or getting caught in bicycle machinery).
We can’t be with our children 24/7, but if we teach them the skills they need to stay safe, we will be able to breathe a little easier. For information about the equipment children should have to stay safe on their bikes, read my post entitled “Bike Safety“.