Are you like me and think about teaching safety after you see your kid do something that absolutely terrifies you, but thankfully the unthinkable didn’t happen? Or are you one of the smart parents who actually think about that stuff before you have that heart in your stomach moment? Whichever camp you fall into, here are some tried and true ways to teach your kids to be safer while biking (or scootering, or skateboarding, or tricycling, et al.).
Start Now, no matter their age.
You’ll want to start early. It’s never too late, but the younger you start, the more likely they’ll actually think safe. As soon as they’re old enough to venture onto a riding toy, you can start teaching the concept of helmets, looking at their surroundings, following rules. But regardless of how old your child is, 4 yrs old or 10 yrs old, start now. It's never too early and it's never too late!
Be Consistent with your safety rules.
The rule in our house is “If it has wheels, you have a helmet on your head.” Always. No exceptions. The rule is for all of us, not just the youngest kids. The key here is it doesn’t matter what the rule is, just be consistent. Especially when it comes to biking safety, if it’s always the rule, it has a much higher chance of being followed even if you’re not there to oversee. Helmets on when riding bikes or scooters, always look before crossing the street, come to a complete stop at intersections before crossing the street. If it’s a rule, it’s always a rule, whether you’re 5 or 45.
Which brings me to our next tip-
Be a Model for Biking Safety.
The biggest group of kids that sustain the most traumatic injuries is the pre-teen/teenage group. It’s no coincidence that this is the age group that thinks they’re practically adults and is hyper aware of hypocrisy (real or perceived). If from a young age, it’s being demonstrated that biking safety is important for everyone and not just “little kids'', your kids will grow up in an environment where biking safety is the norm and not something we outgrow. So wear a helmet- your brain is important too! Look before crossing the street, obey the rules of the road. Model the safe choices and responsibility. They're watching us closely, even if we don't always see it.
Teach the Rules of the Road.
Kids don’t have drivers licenses, they don’t know all the rules of the road, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that they don’t know. So teach them (bonus, they’ll have a basic concept when they do start driving!). Teach them how intersections work, right of way, what the traffic lights and signs mean, hand signals for turning or stopping, proper lane usage. Kids love pretending they’re driving, so make it fun. When you’re driving in the car, point out the different signs and signals. When riding bikes with them, have them pretend they’re driving a car and follow the rules. If your street is safe enough, draw lanes with chalk and have them “drive”. Learning road rules young will make them safer riding bikes for their entire lives.
Biking safety for kids isn’t about making them fearful, or you being a helicopter parent. Riding a bike is a lifelong activity that can take you to many exciting places and experiences (literally and figuratively). Learning to be safe and pay attention opens them up to the many different aspects of biking that can create a lifelong passion. Whether that’s road biking, mountain biking, bmx racing, downhill mountain biking, racing, or just riding around the neighborhood with your kids. There’s risk to everything, so let’s teach our kids how to experience life and it’s excitement while mitigating the risk.