Bicycling is safer now than ever before, thanks to helmet awareness and bicycle-safety classes. Still, each year in the United States, more than 200 kids under the age of 15 die from injuries involving bicycles, and an additional 360,000 are treated for serious injury in hospital emergency rooms, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
To protect your young cyclist, make sure that she always wears a helmet properly and follows the "rules of the road." Reinforce these rules by having your child lead a family bike ride so you can keep a watchful eye on her and assess her skills. Praise her when she obeys traffic signs and signals, and point out things she needs to improve on. Here are some road rules to review with your child:
1. Check brakes, and make sure tires are inflated properly and seats are at the correct height before taking a bike ride.
2. Ride in single file and in a straight line on the right-hand side of the road. Make sure hands are always within reach of the hand brakes.
3. Look both ways, and obey all road signs and signals, just like motorists. Dismount, and walk your bike across busy intersections.
4. Use hand signals when turning. For a left turn, put your left arm straight out and parallel to the road. For a right turn, bend the elbow of your left arm so that your forearm and biceps form a 90-degree angle.
5. Keep an eye out for such potential hazards as potholes, sewer grates, uneven pavement, and soft shoulders. Warn riders behind you by calling out these obstacles.
6. Never ride with both hands off the handlebars.
7. When biking, don't wear headphones (they muffle the sound of approaching vehicles) or pants with flared cuffs (they can get caught in the bicycle's chain). Also, refrain from biking at night, when the risk of injury triples.