With springtime looming, we’ve been talking a bit about choosing and buying a bike for your child. If you can’t tell we are ready and waiting for the weather to get better so we can try out our new bikes! If you missed out series of articles here they are, Bicycle Shopping Guide for Families and How to Choose the right Bicycle for a Child. While you’re searching for the perfect bicycle, don’t forget that you will need some accessories to keep your child safe while riding.
When you and I were kids, we probably did not wear bicycle helmets, but like everything in child safety, the recommendations have changed. My pediatrician talked to my kids about the importance of wearing a helmet, explaining that traumatic brain injuries are both preventable and life-changing. When a little girl who was in my son’s grade at school fell off of her bike and was hospitalized a couple of years ago, it further cemented our stance that bike helmets are non-negotiable. Please, if your child rides a bicycle or a scooter, make sure her noggin is protected!
The people at your local bike shop can make sure that the helmet you buy fits your child properly. It should fit snugly, but not so tightly that it leaves a mark on her forehead. Most helmets come with foam inserts that can snug up a slightly loose helmet, and can be removed as your child’s head grows. Also, the straps can be adjusted to make the fit tighter or looser. You should not be able to move the helmet around on your child’s head once it’s strapped on. Remember that the helmet should be worn so that it sits flat on your child’s head; don’t let it slip back and leave her forehead exposed. Also, the chin straps must be fastened every time.
You can buy a helmet at your local discount store or at a bicycle shop, but don’t go for a used helmet unless you know the sellers. After a crash, the foam is compromised, and the helmet must be replaced. For the $20 or $30 that you’ll spend on a new helmet, it’s well worth it.
Reflectors and Lights
Your child’s bike may come with reflectors; if it doesn’t, pick up a set if there’s any chance your child will be riding in the early morning or evening. Another must-have for after-dark cyclists are lights. Reflectors can be helpful in keeping your kids safe but only when specific conditions are met: a car’s headlights must hit the reflector head on for maximum visibility, and the reflectors may be useless if they’re dirty or tilted. Lights can be seen by anyone.
If your child is learning how to ride a bicycle, you might be tempted to purchase knee and elbow pads. While these can prevent injury to delicate joints, they can also hinder free movement, making it more difficult for her to learn to ride. Use your discretion; if your little one is having trouble maneuvering the pedals, then try taking them off.
While this is not anything you can buy, don’t let your youngster loose before teaching her about basic bicycle safety. She should know that she has to follow all applicable traffic signs, and how to signal turns and brakes to others sharing the road. Also, bike riders should always ride with traffic, on the right side of the street. Safe Kids USA recommends that kids not ride alone until they’re at least 10 years old and able to read and follow bicycle safety rules.
Keep your child safe while she has fun on her new bicycle by purchasing the proper safety equipment, and making sure she uses it correctly, every time she rides.