Posted by Claudia Grazioso on November 2, 2011
We’re about to take a big step: My oldest child is about to lose her training wheels. This has been a long time coming. We live on a steep hill, so first we had to locate a park or parking lot where my husband felt he could pass on the timeless knowledge of bicycle riding. I’m kind of a get-it-done gal, so I would have just taken her to any old flat surface, but my husband is very particular (I suspect this has something to do with hoping to get through football season with his Sundays undisturbed by bike-riding lessons). He has long insisted we needed to find just the right place — one with a dirt path or a grassy field so when she falls the first few times, she won’t be traumatized. And, he assured me, she will fall. Which of course got me thinking about bike safety.
A few weeks ago I found the place, a tiny little park I had never been to before. Dirt paths, grass, no roller bladers. She’s ready for a two-wheeler. And I’m ready with the safety rules.
First and foremost: helmet. Of course, we already have one, which is a good thing because up to 85 percent of kids’ cycling-related head injuries either stem from not wearing a helmet or not wearing it correctly. Crazy, right? It’s essential to get the right kind of helmet. Your child’s bike helmet should have a sticker that indicates that it meets the safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). It should fit securely, and you should never let your child wear a hat under it — even in the coldest weather. Also, if your child takes a major spill, get a new one. After a bad fall, the helmet might not be as effective. Basically, it will take the damage, and not your child’s head. Replace it so it works just as well the next time. (And yes, there probably will be a next time.)
Be sure your child’s shoelaces are tied and they are not wearing loose or baggy clothes that can get caught in moving parts of the bicycle, like the chain. That happened to me a few times when I was a kid… talk about skidding to a sudden stop. Also, make sure the bike is the right size.
We live in a city, so my kids will not be riding in traffic. But if you live someplace where they can ride on the street, be sure your kids know all hand signals and follow the rules of the road. Explain that they should always ride to the far right side of the street, in the same direction as traffic. And it’s not a bad idea to dress them in bright or reflective clothing so drivers are sure to see them.