Children and Bicycle Safety

When it comes to preventing childhood injuries, safety and biking must go hand in hand.

When it comes to the safety of our children, bicycles come to the forefront of many parents’ minds. One of the reasons bicycling so often leads to injuries is that, according to cycling and road safety instructor, Ray Hall, bicycles are treated differently from other road vehicles. Hall says that’s an accident waiting to happen. “The biggest, single mistake parents make is that they treat their child’s bicycle as a toy. They’re not toys, they’re vehicles. You wouldn’t give your child a mini-bike and say go out and play, and bikes should be treated like a mini-bike, because they have the same power as a mini-bike or mini-motorcycle. So if you think of it as a small motorcycle, then it’s more obvious how you should deal with the machines.”

Barb Wentworth, Cycling Coordinator for the City of Toronto adds that not only should bicycles be viewed as vehicles, so should the tricycles that are popular with the toddler and preschool set. Wentworth says parent’s need to stay with their children when they’re triking because “young children have difficulty in controlling this first vehicle and falls can happen at any point. Some people think that because trikes are so low to the ground there won’t be much damage if the child does fall off. This isn’t true. It doesn’t take much of a bump to cause a head injury.”

Studies show 75% of bicycle related deaths are due to head injuries. Because of the seriousness of head injuries, Wentworth says that “as in any other type of safety equipment, it’s perfectly legitimate for the parent to insist that the child wear a helmet.”

Another major area of concern with cycling is road safety. Most experts agree that children shouldn’t be riding in traffic until, developmentally, they can handle such a complex task. Hall explains that “until a child hits about 12 years old, they’re not mentally capable of judging speed and distance to be able to be let out in traffic by themselves.” That’s not to say that children under twelve should be riding on sidewalks adds Hall. “If you feel comfortable with your kids to let them out on the road and not on the sidewalk, then they shouldn’t be riding by themselves anyway. Every study done shows that riding on the sidewalk is two and a half times more dangerous than riding on the road. So children under 12 should be supervised when they’re on their bikes and riding on quiet side streets with minimum amount of traffic.”

Biking is a great activity. But for safety’s sake it requires vigilance on the parent’s side. So supervise children, have them take a few lessons in road safety, don helmets, and ride on roadways appropriate for their age and capabilities.

Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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