If you've been wanting to share your love of cycling with the kids but are hesitant about their safety, have questions about what age you should start bringing them along or the feasiblity of the task as a whole, we've put together a few quick resources for you.
When one thinks of biking with your kids, the general thought is that they are post-toddler age and you're going on a grand adventure through the streets or at a park. Yet for many the big debate is - how young is too young to take your child out? Marion Rice of Bike Portland published an article in 2009 entitled, "Carrying Your Infant By Bike" which goes into the laws and medical safety of infants; the consensus being to wait until the child is 9-12 months old but we're with REI in that "Toddlers must be able to easily sit up and fully support their head before they can join you for a ride. Many areas have laws requiring children to be at least 1 year old and to wear a helmet while riding in a bike seat."
For articles that go over seats, carriers, trailers, tandems and tag-a-longs for the infant to toddler crowd, these are three of our favorite articles:
- Portland Family Adventures: Tips for Biking with Kids
- Bike Toledo: Riding with Kids
- Austin on Two Wheels: Tips for Biking with Kids
- Do your homework: Make certain you are familiar with the bike route. If you get lost or the route is longer than expected, your child may suffer not only from a diminished experience, but potentially in more serious ways such as dehydration or exposure.
- Start early: Children tend to tire quickly in the afternoon. Take advantage of their energy in the morning and start your ride early.
- Invite playmates: Cycling is more fun when shared. If your child has a friend who is at the same level of competency on a bike, bring him or her along.
- Slow down: Realize that a 4-mile ride may take 2 hours. Don't expect to ride as fast as you would on your own.
- Be aware of traffic: What might seem like light traffic to you could be a more dangerous situation for your child, whether biking separately or in a trailer.
- Be prepared: Carry a tool kit and know how to use it. Also, carry a first-aid kit that includes a few bandages and antibiotic cream to handle minor cases of road rash.
- Dress right: Bring a daypack to hold extra jackets in case the weather changes.
- Children should always wear a helmet. A helmet will not prevent crashes from happening but can provide protection if you do fall off your bike.
- Purchase the right size bicycle for your child. On a properly sized bicycle, your child should be able to stand over the top bar with his/her feet flat on the ground and an inch or two of clearance over the bar. They should be able to reach and squeeze the brake levers comfortably. A child who cannot reach the ground or the brake levers will be less likely to stop when required, and the bicycle will be harder to control in general.
Things to Consider:
- Sidewalks are preferred by many young bicyclists, and their parents. Sidewalks, however, can present a host of hazards to bicyclists. If your children ride on sidewalks, teach them to be safe. Teach them to be cautious when riding past shrubs, fences and buildings that create blind spots at driveways and intersections for both bicyclists and motorists. Teach your children not to enter the intersection unless waved on by the driver, and to look for other traffic that might turn across their path first. Children should warn others before passing them by saying "Excuse me" or "Passing on the left." Remind them that pedestrians always have the right of way on sidewalks and in crosswalks.
- Children often fail to stop first and look for traffic. They do not understand that traffic on the street has the right of way over those entering the street. Teach them to always stop before entering the street, and to look left, right and left again for traffic. Children have limited peripheral vision, so emphasize that they have to turn their heads when looking for traffic.
- Wrong way riding is a major contributing cause of bicycle crashes for children. Teach them to ride on the right side of the street, in the same direction as other traffic. Children should ride about 3 feet from the edge of the road or from the edge of parked cars.
- Children need a lot of training and practice to learn how to ride safely. The best way to teach your children safe bicycling skills is to ride with them. When appropriate, let them lead, so they get used to making decisions on their own. Remember, children learn by watching others, so be sure that you always bike responsibly and wear a helmet.
- Teach your children not to swerve. Children often make left turns, or swerve left around parked cars or other hazards, without looking behind them first to see if there are cars close behind them. Teach your children to do this by having them ride a straight line and look over their left shoulder when you call out their name. When they look back, they should shout out how many fingers you are holding up.
- Check your child’s bicycle frequently. Children are tough on bicycles, so they should be inspected regularly. Take your child’s bicycle to a bike shop and have them show you and your child how to check their bicycle to make sure it works properly.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES & LINKS:
More advanced options than what we covered here and other articles we recommend you read.
- Introducing Your Child to Mountain Biking
- Bike To School
- Healthy Children: Bicycle Safety - Myths and Facts
- Commute By Bike: Bicycle Child Seats and Trailers