Bicycling is a popular summertime activity for many children. Many parents support this pastime because it gets kids out of the house, moving their bodies and interacting with other children. However, bicycling can involve a few safety risks as well.
Experienced and inexperienced bicyclists both have a risk of colliding with traffic. Having a child hit by a car can be a parent’s worst nightmare, but the fear of it occurring may not warrant taking a child’s bike away. Instead, consider taking preventative actions to minimize your child's risk of being involved in a traffic collision while bicycling.
One preventative step you can take involves helping your child be more visible to motorists. Some ways to do this include:
- Setting a curfew to discourage bicycling after dark
- Purchasing bright colored clothing for your child
- Installing reflectors on the front and back of a child’s bicycle
- Adding reflective tape to a child’s helmet
- Equipping a child’s bicycle with a light in case he or she is caught out after dark
- Allowing bicycling only where motorists expect to see bicyclists
Buy a bike that fits now
In addition to being visible, your child must be able to control his or her bike. It may not be safe to buy your child a bicycle that he or she must grow into because a bike that is too big can be much more difficult to control.
Your child’s road bicycle is the right size if your child can stand over the bicycle and there is one or two inches between your child’s body and the top bar. If your child rides a mountain bicycle, there should be three or four inches between your child’s body and the top bar. Additionally, the seat should be adjusted to allow a slight bend in your child’s knee as your child fully extends his or her leg.
Limit where your child can ride
Bicycles are legally considered vehicles, so the best place to bicycle is often the street. However, it may not be safe for some children to bicycle in the street without supervision. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children younger than 10 years old are often not mature enough to make safe decisions when riding in the street. Additionally, children who wobble or easily lose control of their bicycles may be unpredictable to motorists.
You may still be able to encourage bicycling as an activity, even if you do not think your child is ready to bicycle in the street. Your child may be able to bicycle in your driveway or on a bicycle trail. Also, bicycling on the sidewalk may be allowed for children in some locations.
Make helmets a habit
Regardless of where your child rides, he or she must wear a helmet. A helmet will protect your child in case any accident or collision does occur. Also, Tennessee law requires children under 16 years old to use helmets when bicycling. You may be able to promote helmet use by making helmets a habit for everyone in the family.
To be effective, your child’s helmet must fit securely on his or her head. It should sit low on the forehead with the width of only about two fingers between your child’s eyebrows and the front of the helmet. No more than one finger should fit under the helmet’s strap when it is buckled.
When a bicyclist is hit by a car, the bicyclist is usually seriously wounded, and children can be more vulnerable than adults in this type of incident. If your child is injured in a traffic accident, it may be appropriate to take legal action. You may be able to receive compensation for your child’s medical expenses and other costs associated with your child’s injuries.