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May 17, 2011 > Bicycle safety tips for kids

Bicycle safety tips for kids

Submitted By Geneva Bosques, Fremont Police

The warm weather and long days are allowing us to all spend more time outdoors. Over the next couple of weeks, we will focus our safety information on tips to help keep you safe during the summer months.

Bicycle riding is fun and a great way to get exercise, but it's often taken for granted as a toy. A bicycle is actually a vehicle that gets people from one place to another. Here are some tips to help keep your kids safe while riding their bikes this summer.

- Before using a bicycle, make sure that it's inspected and all parts are working properly. Check the chain for rust, the brakes to make sure they work, the tires for air, and adjust any bolts that are loose.

- Begin by educating your child about bike safety, the basic rules about wearing a helmet, using crosswalks, and staying safe around cars. Use pictures, video or play acting to help communicate these basic principles to young children.

- Always supervise your young children when they are riding a bike, and never leave them alone. It's best to make it a family affair and participate alongside your child until they are competent and old enough to bike independently.

- A helmet protects your child from serious injury, and must always be worn.

- California Vehicle Code Section 21212 - Youth Bicycle Helmets Minors, states:

A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle, a non-motorized scooter, or a skateboard, nor shall they wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, a non-motorized scooter, or a skateboard as a passenger, upon a street, bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet that meets the standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or standards subsequently established by those entities. This requirement also applies to a person who rides upon a bicycle while in a restraining seat that is attached to the bicycle or in a trailer towed by the bicycle.

- Your child needs to wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home. Many accidents happen in driveways, on sidewalks, and on bike paths, not just on streets. Children learn best by observing you. Set the example: Whenever you ride, put on your helmet.

- When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard.

- A helmet should be worn so that it is level on the head, not tipped forwards or backwards. The strap should be securely fastened, and you should not be able to move the helmet in any direction. If needed, the helmet's sizing pads can help improve the fit.

- Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike until he or she is ready, at about age 5 or 6. Consider the child's coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster (foot) brakes until your child is older and more experienced for hand brakes.

- Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new one.

- Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to "grow into." Oversized bikes are especially dangerous. Have your child stand over the bicycle. There should be 1 to 2 inches between your child and the top tube (bar) if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if it's a mountain bicycle. The seat should be level front to back. The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.

- Whether daytime or at night, you need to be seen by others when riding a bike. Wearing white clothing has not been shown to make you more visible. Rather, always wear neon, fluorescent or other bright colors when riding day or night. Also wear something that reflects light, such as reflective tape or markings. A flashing light can also be added to your bike.

- Remember, just because you can see a driver, it doesn't mean the driver can see you.

- Always ride with at least one hand on the handlebars, carry books, backpacks and other items in a backpack or bicycle carrier.

- Watch for road hazards. Be on the lookout for hazards such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves and pets. If you are riding with friends, alert them to hazards you see.

- Go with the flow of traffic. Ride on the right, in the same direction as other vehicles. Do not go against the flow of traffic.

- Obey all traffic laws and yield to traffic when appropriate.

- Stay alert at all times and always look before turning.

- The Pedestrian and Bicycling Information Center warns that riding on the sidewalk poses a greater risk than riding on the road with traffic, as motorists are watching the road and may not see bicyclists to their left or right. However, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recommends that kids less than 10 years old ride on the sidewalk when allowed by law.
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- Watch for parked cars and opening doors.

All of the California Vehicle Codes related to bicycles, can be found on the California DMV web-site at

Have fun and stay safe!!!
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