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Passenger or Pedaler: How to Make Bike Riding Safe for Your Child

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Most parents vividly recall their own attempts to learn to ride a bike when they decide to teach their children the same skill. Despite some spills and scraped knees, the experience leads to years of personal enjoyment and family fun. When your child becomes a pedaler — whether on a three-wheeler or a two-wheeler — offer lots of encouragement. And remember, bike riding is a complicated skill that takes some time to master.

  Along for the Ride: Seats, Spokes, and Helmets

  Ready to Ride

  Where to Ride

  Big Kid's Bike


Along for the Ride: Seats, Spokes, and Helmets

Before your child is ready to ride on his own, you may want to bring him along as a passenger on your bike. Just wait until he's at least 1 year old. By this age, he's better able to sit without support, and his neck will be strong enough to support a lightweight helmet. Keep in mind that even with the sturdiest bike and best-fitting helmet, a child is at risk for injury if you lose control or if you are struck by another vehicle. Doing your best for your sightseer involves:

1. Using a rear-mounted seat that is securely attached over the rear wheel. It should have spoke guards or straps to prevent little feet and hands from getting caught in the wheel. The seat should have a high back and a sturdy shoulder harness capable of supporting your child's weight even if he dozes off. Some parents choose to transport their young children in a covered, often canvas or durable plastic trailer. This metal trailer attaches to the rear drop-off of the adult bicycle's back wheel and is stable and strong. The wheels of the trailer are widely spaced so tipping over is unlikely. Your child is belted into the seat as well. The only downside is the cost, which at $300 or more, is expensive.

2. Using a lightweight infant or toddler helmet on your small passenger to prevent or minimize head injury in case of an accident. Bicycle shops have a better selection of appropriate helmets than toy stores do, so go there first. Bike store personnel should be able to advise on proper fit and adjustment, so be sure to ask for their help. Helmets that have been approved for safety are labeled "Snell Approved" or "Meets American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standards."

3. Strapping your child into the bike seat and securing all the buckles each time you ride together.


Ready to Ride

By the time your child is running, climbing, jumping, and kicking a ball, she's ready for a tricycle. That's because she'll be able to pedal. For most children, readiness comes between 2 and 4 years old. When they get to this stage, kids move fast, which increases the risk of falls. Make sure your child is wearing an approved helmet that fits securely and comfortably.

Three-wheeler wisdom: Buy a tricycle that is low to the ground and has big wheels. You may notice other kids your child's age who are riding small bicycles with training wheels. But stick to the trike; it's more stable and will be less likely to tip over.


Where to Ride

Allow your child to ride only in a safe place, such as a neighborhood sidewalk that isn't too congested. Make sure you always stay close by so you can supervise.

Never allow a toddler on a three-wheeler to ride in the street. Even with supervision, this is a bad idea: She'll think it's safe because you're there.

It may be obvious, but it's worth stating: Never allow your child to ride near swimming pools or cars. A child on a tricycle sits low to the ground and may not be seen by a motorist who is backing up-out of a driveway, for example.

Insist that your child wear her helmet every time she rides, even if only in your driveway.


Big Kid's Bike

Most children can safely begin to ride a two-wheeler with training wheels when they are 5 to 6 years old. In general, kids don't have the balance or muscle coordination to ride a bike without training wheels until they are 6 or 7 years old, and sometimes older.

Here's how to tell if a bike is the right size for your child: Have him sit on the seat with his hands on the handlebars. The balls of his feet should be on the ground.

Be a good role model for your child by practicing what you preach: Wear a helmet each time you go for a spin, alone or with company.

 
 
 
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