There are few things more exhilarating than zooming downhill on a bike. When I used to live in New York City, I rode my bike to work nearly every day. It was a healthy habit, and the daily exercise felt great! Only the snow would send me to the subway.
There is no question, riding a bike is as fun now as it was when I was a kid. But it can also be dangerous. Accidents happen. Yet, there are simple ways to protect your children.
Bike safety starts with the helmet
Even before a child’s first bike should come their first bicycle helmet!
In 1999, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standardized the safety features of bicycle helmets. Only use a helmet labeled with the CPSC standards for safety. A bicycle helmet should be worn every time your child is using their bike.
A properly fitted helmet should:
• Sit level on the head and fit snugly
• Cover the forehead
• Be securely fastened by tightening the chin strap until two fingers can fit flat between the chin and strap
Many children find helmets uncomfortable. However, this is one time when there is little room for compromise. Their safety is too important. Set an example by wearing one yourself or explain that the helmet will feel more comfortable the more they wear it.
Teach your child that following safety rules can be fun!
After picking a helmet comes finding a bike that fits your child. It is best to choose a bike that fits their size and not one they can grow into. Most young children lack the skills and coordination to manage a bike too big for them. Your child should be able to place both balls of their feet on the ground when sitting on the seat and with their hands on the handlebars.
Remember, always ride on the right side of the road, facing the same direction as traffic, and obey all traffic signs. Children should not ride at night or by themselves.
Teach your child the common hand signals used to indicate stopping and turning:
Left Turn: extend left hand straight out to the left.
Right Turn: extend left hand out to the left and bend the elbow up 90 degrees so the hand is pointing to the sky.
Stop: extend left hand straight out and bend the elbow down 90 degrees so the hand is pointing to the ground.
I hope you and your families enjoy the rest of summer and have an exciting start to the new school year.
Dr. Hengel is a pediatric hospitalist at Phelps Hospital, Northwell Health. For more information on children’s safety and pediatric services at Phelps, please call (914) 366-3000.