Bicycles are a common form of recreation, and getting a bike has become a milestone in just about every child’s life. With learning to ride a bike come the normal bumps, bruises, and skinned knees. What many people don’t seem to be familiar with the life-threatening injuries that occur from bicycles, which happen more often than you might think.

Bicycles are the most dangerous consumer product you buy for your children.   Every year in the United States, around 280,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 will sustain bicycle injuries serious enough to be rushed to the emergency room. About 150 will die each year from those injuries. This doesn’t mean you should keep your kids away, just use precaution to ensure they can ride their bicycle safety.

Purchasing a bike for your child: Some safety considerations

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests these tips for finding a bike that properly fits your child:

  1. When your child sits on the seat with his hands on the handlebars, he must be able to touch the balls of both feet to the ground. If he can touch much more, the bike is too small. If he can’t touch, it’s too big.
  1. The child should be able to stand comfortably when straddling the center bar with at least one inch of clearance.

Bikes that are too big or not built for the child result in a lack of control, and are a common cause of bicycle related injuries. So be sure the bike you choose fits your child.

Proper clothing for safe bike riding

Avoid loose clothing when children are riding their bikes, as it could get caught in the pedals or spokes. Also make sure they have their shoes tied, and don’t let children ride bikes while wearing sandals or flip-flops, as many kids have lost a toe this way. If a child gets their clothing caught it could result in a serious accident.

Bicycle safety for parents

  • Make your child wear a bicycle helmet!!!!! The majority of all deaths on bicycles occur from head injuries (85%). Many permanent injuries and deaths from bicycles are not caused by some massive collision with a car or a wall, but simply by the child falling off a bike at normal speeds and landing wrong on their head. Don’t make a helmet an option. Remember, perhaps only a hundred and fifty children die per year, but tens of thousands more suffer permanent brain damage. Forty-seven percent of the children hospitalized (around 134,000 children), are treated for traumatic brain injury from bicycle accidents each year.
  • Have your child give their helmet the wiggle test every time they put it on by shaking their head back and forth. If it moves around too much, tighten the chin strap.
  • Try to set aside pre-approved bike riding areas for your child, such as along bike paths or in other areas away from traffic.
  • Do not let your children ride their bike at night. Children riding at dawn, dusk, or at night are four times as likely to be injured.

Child bike seats & bike trailer safety

Don’t ride with a child in a bike seat or bike trailer unless you are an experience cyclist. Keep in mind that kids must be older than one, be able to sit up straight, and be wearing a helmet when riding in a bike seat or bike trailer.

Safe bike riding rules for kids

  • Teach children to never ride in traffic. Stay on the sides of non-busy streets or in parks or sidewalks.
  • Have children always keep their helmet on, and let them know how important it is. TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is the leading cause of disability in children. A fall from as little as 2 feet can result in TBI. Explain to them that brains do not heal like the rest of their body. A brain injury can leave a child permanently disabled.
  • Stay as far to the right of the road as you can when you ride.
  • Always be looking for parked cars that might be ready to pull out, or cars with people in them that might open a door without warning.
  • Watch for cars that are turning.
  • Teach children that if they have to cross an intersection, they should get off their bicycle and walk it across the street.
  • Keep an eye out for the surface you are riding on. Watch out for large rocks, sticks, cracks, potholes, sewer grates, loose sand or gravel, wet surfaces, patches of ice, and other such hazards. Slow down before any surface change, because you never know how it might affect your bike.
  • Never do stunts on a street or in traffic.
  • If you have to avoid an obstacle suddenly, always swerve away from the road.
  • Follow all of the same precautions for any recreational device with wheels, such as skate boards, scooters, or roller skates.

Bicycle safety resources for kids

Child bike seats & bike trailer safety

Don’t ride with a child in a bike seat or bike trailer unless you are an experience cyclist. Keep in mind that kids must be older than one, be able to sit up straight, and be wearing a helmet when riding in a bike seat or bike trailer.