How To Ride Bikes Safely With Kids
The Bay Area’s beautiful natural landscape and year-round comfortable weather makes it a great place to go for a bike ride just about anytime. And for cyclists who want to instill a love of two-wheeled transportation in their kids, there are plenty of options for scenic, safe rides where little ones can learn the rules of the road and get comfortable traveling by bike.
However, riding with the family isn’t just fun and games. When you are taking your kids for a bike ride, there are a number of extra safety tips you should keep in mind to make sure the whole family is out of harm’s way.
Here are a few important tips for how to ride bikes safely with kids:
1. Wear proper safety gear. Every child should have a helmet when they ride, no matter what. Even if you’re riding on supposedly safe neighborhood streets or in a park, there are dozens of ways to get injured on your bike that don’t involve being hit by a car, and there’s no excuse for not protecting your child’s head when they get on a bike.
You can also outfit the family with reflective gear, bike lights, and additional safety equipment like wrist guards, for an extra dose of proactive protection.
2.Make sure everyone’s bike is in good working condition for them. This means making sure tires are properly inflated, and that everyone’s brakes work. If your child isn’t old enough to test these things themselves, then you should test them in advance of the ride for them. Simply rolling the bike a few feet to test the tires and brakes should give you all the information you need.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure your child’s bike is the right size for them. Many parents make the mistake of buying a bike the child will “grow into”; however, a bike that is too heavy for a little one will make it much harder for them to go long distances, and a bike that is too big can make it hard for kids to shift gears or reach the brakes.
3. Choose a child trailer over a child bike seat. If you have a child too young to ride their own bike, opt for a rolling trailer that goes behind your bike instead of a seat that attaches to your bike. Not only are the trailers bigger and more visible to cyclists and traffic behind you, but they are more likely to stay upright and protect the child in the event that you and/or your bike fall over.
Before you start riding, check the child seat product instructions and make sure that it is has been attached properly. Give everything a good feel to make sure it is safely locked into place and won’t be wobbling or coming apart mid-ride.
4. Find an off-street route. Children under 10 years old don’t have the quick decision-making skills to handle riding on a busy road, even supervised, and it can be dangerous to put them in that situation. For your first few rides with the family, choose routes that go through parks or in areas that are friendly to sidewalk-riding families, where cars and other cyclists won’t be speeding by adding pressure to the ride.
You want to teach your children cycling etiquette in a situation where making a mistake won’t potentially cause a major accident. Keep it as low pressure as possible until your children are old enough and have enough cycling experience to make serious safety decisions on the fly.
5. Incorporate the rules of the road and good bicycle etiquette along the way. Kids learn by doing, and so having them act out the proper cycling behavior even early on will serve them well for a lifetime of safe riding.
Important basics that every cyclist should know include the hand signals (turning left, turning right, and stop), right of way rules (stopping at lights and stop signs, pulling to the right for faster traffic to pass), and using a bell or voice to alert pedestrians and other cyclists that you are passing.
The earlier you incorporate cycling into your child’s life, the more comfortable they will be and the better future cyclist they will be. While it can be scary to set your child loose on two wheels, you are teaching them an invaluable skill that will help them stay healthy and improve the environment we all live in.