When teaching children how to safely ride their bike, it all comes down to training and equipment. If you concentrate on these two areas, your kids will have the best of times while staying safe on their bikes.
When starting out training, it’s best to find a quiet, flat on area on firm ground which is wide enough for them to find their feet (or rather wheels) without fear of too many obstacles. Try and avoid the distraction or attention of dogs by using a local oval.
It is important to only progress from such areas when you are sure that your child is both confident and competent. Use markings (such as cones) to set a course for them to navigate, and make a fun game out of it. Only when they can ride in a straight line, without wobbling and can take corners with ease, should you consider moving onto footpaths.
A few don’ts to remember are that children should not use the front driveway for riding
. This is a place which should never be seen as a play area. It is also important to remember that kids should not ride on the roads until they are at least 10 years old.
Children can ride on footpaths until they are 12 (and with their parents supervising), but they must be taught about potential hazards found there. It is a good idea for parents to warn their children about reversing cars and that pedestrians have the right of way. It is the responsibility of parents and guardians to act as good role models when riding and driving.
What is just as important as training is the equipment cyclists’ use. This is even truer for young riders as they will have far less experience of road safety. The best advice for being safe is being seen.
The CEO of Bicycle NSW, Ray Rice, says that when choosing the best bike for your child, it must correctly fit them and be adjustable.
"You wouldn't drive your car without being able to reach the brakes or accelerator, or with your knees stuck up underneath the steering wheel. Likewise, a child's bike should be correctly fitted and adjusted. Either too big or too small can cause accidents and injuries,” said Mr Rice.
“Children should not “grow into” a bike or helmet, so it is very important to consider the size of the bike before you buy,” he said.
When checking the size, there should be 3cm between the crutch and the crossbar (10cm for BMX or mountain bikes). When sitting on the seat, a child’s toes should be on the ground on both sides, arms should be slightly bent as the child lean forward leans slightly forward, and the seat should be level with all controls within reach.
It is imperative that children be taught to look after their bike and maintain it. It needs to be stored well, not left outside in the rain, and the following 6 point check should be carried out regularly by both child and parent.
The 6 point check includes:
1. Tyres: Firm (enough pressure), tread not worn, no bulges or cuts.
2. Bell/horn: clear and loud
3. Pedals: rotate easily, and have good grip. Always ride with shoes on.
4. Lights/reflectors: secure, clean and shine brightly
5. Brakes: pads not worn down, wheel does not rotate when brakes applied
6. Chain/gears: clean, lightly lubricated.
Bicycle helmets should also be given the same level of respect when being looked after. Side straps should be adjusted, and chin strap close under the chin, and if it starts to show signs of wear, or any sign of cracks, you should replace it immediately.
It doesn’t take much to teach your kids how to stay safe when riding, but if you require any more information you should contact your local bike shop.
What are your best tips to help keep kids safe when riding? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Don’t forget UN Road Safety week runs from 4-8 May 2015, and you can use the following hashtag #SaveKidsLives to get involved.