Bike riding can be fun for the whole family. / Getty Images
Bike riding can be fun for the whole family, but it needs to be enjoyed safely. Bicycle safety involves developing riding skills, wearing the right protective gear, and looking after your bike. Parents need to teach their children about riding safety and caring for their bike before they leave the house.
Helmets are mandatory — so set a good example!
Not only is it the right thing to do but it’s also the law. In 1997, Florida adopted the mandatory helmet law for children 16 years of age and younger. This law applies on roads, bike paths, bike lanes, shared and segregated footways and other public places such as recreational parks and car parks. Make sure that your child always wears a helmet when riding. Your child’s helmet should be:
• The right size and fitted correctly. The helmet should be comfortable and not too tight or loose. Caps should not be worn under helmets as they ruin the fit — wear a visor over the helmet to protect you from the sun. Choose a helmet that is not too heavy and provides good ventilation.
• Positioned on the head properly. The helmet should sit level on the head, covering the forehead, with the rim just above the eyebrows. The straps should be correctly adjusted and the buckle securely fastened. The straps should form a “V” shape with the plastic strap guide sitting just under the earlobe. The buckle should be close up under your chin.
• Kept in good condition. If the helmet hits an object or the road, you should replace it. Don’t leave a helmet exposed to direct sunlight when not in use, make sure the foam is not old and crumbling, and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Also, make sure that your child’s bike is well-maintained. Regularly check brakes, wheels, pedals, bearings and chains so that the bike will stop quickly in an emergency. Each time they ride, check if the tires are hard, if the brakes work and whether there are any rattles. Check the tires, bearings, gears, and nuts and bolts and lubricate the chain and cables each week. See a professional bicycle mechanic if you are unsure about the bike’s safety.
To help your child become a safe cyclist, let them have lots of practice on safe paths while offering tips on bike handling. Basically, they should be able to ride in a straight line, brake properly and corner safely. And always, ride in designated areas such as bike paths whenever possible.
Finally, choose a bike that suits your rider. Having the right size bike plays a big part in safe cycling. A bike that’s too big for your child is dangerous. Your bike shop professional can help you determine the right fit for you.
— Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist from Fort Myers. She is a USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach and USA Cycling coach. For more training tips, read her blog at triathlontrainingisfun.com or contact her at gearedup.biz.