Know your bicycle basics

How to make sure your child stays safe while riding

Bike riding is a favorite activity for children, but it comes with important responsibilities for staying safe. According to SafeKids.org, 242,931 children ages 19 and younger were seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to riding bikes in 2014. To avoid spending time in the ER, here are several ways to make sure your child stays bike-safe.

Wear a helmet

New Hampshire law requires children younger than 16 to wear a bike helmet. Helmets should fit snuggly. Helmet straps must be no more than one or two fingers above the eyebrow, and no more than one to two fingers should be able to fit between the chin and strap. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward, backward or side-to-side. The helmet straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly. Check out the Helmet Fit Test video at www.safekids.org for more information.

Clothing and footwear

Your child should wear appropriate clothing and footwear when riding their bike. Clothing should be bright or include high-visible yellow or green fluorescent or reflective material, especially if biking near dusk. Avoid letting them wear any loose-fitting clothing that could get caught in the chain. Never let them wear flip-flops or footwear that could easily slip off their feet.

Know the rules of the road

Teach your child the rules of the road. This includes knowing hand signals and other rules such as where and when to ride on the sidewalk if there is one. If there isn’t a sidewalk, tell them to ride in the same direction as traffic and as far to the right as possible. Bicyclists should never carry anything in their hands and shouldn’t have any passengers unless riding a tandem bike. Understanding the rules of the road and being able to follow them requires a level of maturity. Children younger than 12 riding a bike should always be supervised by an adult.

Be seen

Light up your child’s bike. Reflective gear, such as bike reflectors, are essential to bike safety, even for daytime riding. Add reflective stickers, attach reflectors or have them wear a jacket, safety vest or sash. There are many bike lights and blinkers available, and luckily, for your child, there are some fun options.

For more information about other ways to keep your children safe, go to www.chadkids.org/injury-prevention.

Jim Esdon is the program coordinator for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) Injury Prevention Center.

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