Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Knowing the rules of bicycle safety is important so your
child can avoid a serious injury. Here are some facts about
- Children ages 5 to 14 have a higher rate of bicycle
injuries than older riders.
- Bicycle injuries in younger children most often
result from errors they have made.
- Injuries to the face and head are the most severe
injuries for bicyclists.
- Fatal injuries are most often caused when a cyclist
crosses an intersection without looking for cars, or by
drivers who have been using alcohol.
- Children are at risk for injury no matter where they are
riding. One study found the same severity of injuries
among children bicycling in their own neighborhood as
older children using the bicycle as a means of
If your child is learning to ride or already rides a
bicycle, here are several safety points that you should
Know the Rules
Bicycle rules need to be appropriate for the age of the
child. Children should not ride in the street until they
demonstrate a good understanding and ability to follow the
rules of bicycling.
General safety rules:
- Always wear a helmet.
- Always wear protective shoes (no bare feet or sandals).
- Avoid riding at dusk or at night. If a child must ride
at night, proper bicycle lights and reflective clothing
- Never carry another passenger on the bicycle.
Street safety rules:
- Ride in a single file and only in the direction of
- Ride in a straight line while near the curb.
- Always obey stoplights and stop signs.
- Never assume that the driver of a car sees you at an
- Use good balance and steering, proper hand signals, and
- Get off the bicycle safely.
- Look behind you when you turn across a traffic lane.
Children frequently do not learn or have the skills needed
to ride on the street until age 10. Even after this age,
you should periodically check your child's skills. Check to
see if your child pays attention to potential obstacles or
dangers such as rocks, tree limbs, and cars exiting
driveways or alleys.
Wear a Bicycle Helmet
Helmets are very effective in reducing the risk of serious
head injury or death as a result of bicycle accidents. Get
a bicycle helmet before your child takes his first bicycle
ride. Even a child riding in a bicycle carrier should wear
a helmet. A child should always wear a helmet every time
she gets onto a bicycle.
Parents can do a lot to encourage a child to wear a helmet.
Some ways include:
- Always wear a helmet yourself when you are riding a
bicycle and make an effort to ride with your child.
- Allow your child to pick out his or her own helmet.
- Buy some stickers to "jazz up" a helmet.
- Praise your child for wearing the helmet and address her
concern when the helmet does not fit properly.
- Always insist that your child put on a helmet before he
or she gets onto a bicycle. If your child breaks this
rule, remove bicycle privileges for 1 week.
Choose a Proper Bicycle Size and Type
Having the right size of bicycle is important for the safety
of your child. Children riding bicycles that are too big
for them are injured more often then children with the
proper size of bike. Never buy or allow the use of a
bicycle that the child will "grow into."
A child should be able to touch both feet on the ground
comfortably when standing over the bicycle. The top bar of
the bicycle should be at least 1 inch below the crotch
while the child is standing. Your child should be able to
reach the handlebars comfortably while sitting on the
bicycle seat in an upright posture.
Children just learning to ride on streets should use a bike
with foot brakes because they require less coordination for
safe use. Children who can safely ride on roadways can use
bicycles that require more coordination (such as those with
hand brakes and manual gear shifts).
Maintain Your Bicycle
A child or parent should regularly check the bicycle's
brakes and tire pressure. If the bicycle has rapid release
hubs, check the hubs before each ride. Bicycles with
damaged parts such as wheels, spokes, or handlebars should
be repaired before they are used again.
For More Information:
For more information on bicycle safety, contact your local
bicycle shop or police station. Information on bicycle
safety is also available from the Consumer Product Safety