Teaching children to ride bikes is one of life's most memorable experiences. And having to obey rules and regulations when riding bikes is among a child's first exposures to obeying the law. But each year, more than half a million bicyclists visit the doctor or the emergency room after crashing on their bikes. It's important to teach children bicycle safety. Teach them to:
- Wear a helmet. Studies have shown that wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce head injuries by up to 85%. Select a helmet that fits snugly and comfortably. Always wear a helmet yourself to set a good example. In many places, helmets are legally required, particularly for children.
- Wear clothes that make them more visible. Clothing should be light in color and close-fitting to avoid being caught in the bicycle's moving parts. Books and other loose items should be secured to a properly installed carrier or carried in a backpack, never in the hands.
- Obey the rules of the road. These include traffic signs, signals, and road markings.
- Look both ways. Seven out of ten car-bicycle crashes occur at driveways or other intersections. A child should walk his/her bicycle across busy streets and at corners or crosswalks.
- Ride only in safe places such as parks, school grounds, bike trails, and sidewalks. Ride only in places with very little traffic and with adult supervision.
- Be cautious if allowed to bike at night. If a child is older and is permitted to ride at night, ensure that he/she wears reflective clothing or materials (especially on ankles, wrists, back, and helmet), he/she rides in areas that are familiar and on streets that are brightly lighted, and his/her bike has a headlight and front and rear reflectors.
- Protect bikes against theft. A bicycle can be stolen from just about any place, but simple precautions can deter would-be thieves. Remember, most bikes that are stolen were not locked!
- Always lock a bicycle securely, whether gone for a few minutes or a few hours. Use a U-lock, securing both wheels and the frame to a stationary object (such as a post, fence, tree, or bike rack) that makes it impossible to lift the bike off. For extra security, add a chain or cable with a good padlock.
- Record the serial number of the bicycle and keep it in a safe place together with the sales receipt and a photograph of the bike.
- Mark the bicycle with an engraver to deter thieves and to help the police in identifying and returning a stolen bike to the owner. Use a unique number such as a parent's driver's license number.