Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Their first "Big Kid" bikes!

Our 4 year old twins had outgrown their tricycles and it was finally time to move them up to bicycles.  My wife secretly went out to buy the bikes and I put them together in the basement.  When we had a nice sunny and warm weekend recently, I slipped the bikes out the side door and placed them on the sidewalk in front of our house without our children suspecting anything.  Then my wife asked the twins to go outside to check the mail with her and they ran unsuspectingly out the front door to see their first big kid bikes!

Now the kids were going to be riding real bicycles, I thought it was a good time to check out some safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about bike riding.  When I was a child no one wore helmets when they went for a bike ride, now it is a must do.  So I wanted to make sure I was up to speed on the dos and don'ts of bicycle etiquette and safety.

The NHTSA website recommends that if children are less than 10 years old they are better off riding on the sidewalk rather than having them go in the street.  If you are going to have your child ride on the sidewalk though you need to check with your local ordinances to see if sidewalk riding is allowed.  If your local jurisdiction has strict enforcement of ordinances and bans bicycles on sidewalks even if it is "just a kid" riding the bike you could get a ticket and have to pay a fine.  So make sure you check that out to avoid an unwanted surprise from a zealous police officer.

When riding on the sidewalk, people should also:

  • Watch for vehicles coming out of or turning into driveways;
  • Cross a street at corners or marked pedestrian crossings and NOT between parked cars;
  • Stop at corners of sidewalks and streets to look for cars and to make sure the drivers see you before crossing;
  • Alert pedestrians who are also using the sidewalk that you are near them by saying "excuse me" or "passing on your left."  Installing a bell or horn on a bike and using it to warn people that you are approaching is another option.
The NUMBER 1 tip for bicycle safety from the NHTSA is Wear a Properly Fitted Bicycle Helmet.  Did you know that more children ages 5 - 14 go to hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with bicycles than with any other sport? A majority of these injuries involve the head! Wearing a properly fitted bicycle helmet reduces the risk of head injury by as much as 85% and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88%.  There isn't a federal law requiring bike riders to wear a helmet, but some States and cities have passed mandatory helmet requirements. By our house here in Michigan one of the local Metro Parks requires ANYONE riding a bike on the park grounds to wear a helmet and one of the cities by us, Farmington Hills requires anyone under 16 riding a bicycle to wear a helmet.  Other than those two examples Michigan is pretty lax when it comes to laws requiring bike helmets and leaves it to parent discretion.  On the other hand, California has a statewide law requiring helmets on anyone riding a bicycle under the age of 18.  CLICK HERE for a list of state and city bike helmet laws to see what is applicable near where you are living or may be planning to visit courtesy of the Bike Helmet Safety Institute.

How do you know if a helmet is fitted properly?  Here are some steps to follow in wearing one:

Measure your child's head for approximate size.  Try on the helmet to ensure it fits snuggly.  While it is sitting flat on top of the head, make sure the helmet doesn't rock side to side.

The helmet should sit level on the head and low on the forehead - one or two finger-widths above the eyebrow.

Center the left buckle under the chin. On most helmets the straps can be pulled from the back of the helmet to lengthen or shorten the chin straps.
Adjust the slider on both straps to form a "V" shape under, and slightly in front of the ears.  Lock the slider if possible.

Buckle your chin strap. Tighten the strap until it is snug so that no more than one or two fingers fit under the strap.

  • Does your helmet fit right? Open your mouth wide...big yawn! The helmet should pull down on the head.  If not, refer back to step 5 and tighten the chin strap.
  • Does your helmet rock back more than two fingers above the eyebrows? If so unbuckle, shorten the front strap by moving the slider forward. Buckle, retighten the chin strap, and test again.
  • Does your helmet rock forward into your eyes? If so unbuckle, tighten the back strap by moving the slider back toward the ear.  Buckle, retighten the chin strap, and test again.
  • The helmet should fit now! Have fun & be safe!
For more information on bike helmets, visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute www.bhsi.org

The NHTSA also recommends that you Adjust Your Bicycle to Fit.  Stand over the bike.  There should be 1 to 2 inches between the rider and the top tube/bar  for a road bike and 3 to 4 inches for a mountain bike.  The seat should be level front to back.  The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.

Also before every bike ride check your equipment before riding to make sure that the brakes work and tires are properly inflated.

One final tip would probably be to post pictures on your kids and their bikes on Facebook for your family and friends to enjoy and so that in a case like mine your brother-in-law can point out that you put the front wheel on backwards for your son's bike...OOOPS...we got that fixed pretty quickly.  Hey the things that social media can help you out with ... gotta love it!

We'll be having a summer filled with bike riding this year!  Hope you and your family have lots of fun adventures in store for you this summer as well!

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