Bike riding is a great way to get exercise and fresh air, and share time as a family. It’s a lot of fun, but accidents can happen. Every year, about 300,000 kids go to the emergency room because of bike injuries, and at least 10,000 kids have injuries that require a few days in the hospital. Some of these injuries are life-threatening. Before the family rushes out and starts pedaling, it’s important to teach your kids bike safety rules.
What You Should Know About Bike Safety
One of the best ways to help children learn bicycle safety is to set a good example by following proper biking rules of the road yourself. It's also a great way to stay active as a family and get valuable time together that you'll all enjoy! Go for bike rides with your kids so you can show them what safe riding looks like. Most importantly, always wear your helmet.
Bicycle helmet use should be mandatory for everyone in your family, no matter where you are or how short the ride. In most states it's the law. Here's why: Many bike crashes involve a head injury, so a crash could mean permanent brain damage or death for someone who isn't wearing a helmet. In fact, each year in the U.S., about half a million kids are seriously injured in bicycle-related crashes or events, and most of those injuries could have been avoided if a helmet was worn. To protect against brain injury, make sure your kids wear a correctly fitting helmet on every ride.
Things to keep in mind when buying and wearing a helmet:
- Pick bright colors or fluorescent colors that are visible to drivers and other cyclists.
- Look for a helmet that is well-ventilated.
- Make sure that the helmet has a CPSC or Snell sticker inside. These indicate that the helmet meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the Snell Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit group that tests helmet safety.
- Make sure your child's helmet fits correctly and can be adjusted.
- Be sure to replace any helmet made before 1999.
- If your child hits any surface hard while wearing a helmet, replace it. Helmets lose their capacity to absorb shock after serious hits.
- When kids wear a helmet, make sure that the straps are fastened. Also make sure they don't wear any other hat underneath it. Kids should not wear any helmet when they're on a playground or climbing a tree. There is a risk of strangulation from the chin strap during these types of activities.
Nemours Safety Store
Nemours is proud to offer low-cost safety products with injury prevention education to the community. We offer a variety of bike safety gear. The store is located inside Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.
What kids wear when riding a bike is also very important for safety:
- Fluorescent or bright-colored clothes will help kids be visible on the road, and they’re more visible than white clothes. Avoid dark clothes, especially during early dusk and twilight hours.
- Wear something that helps to reflect light like reflective tape.
- Lightweight clothes will help them avoid becoming overheated.
- Pant legs shouldn't be too loose-fitting or flared. These can get caught up in the chain while riding.
- If your child wears a backpack while riding, make sure the straps are tied up and can't get tangled in the spokes of the wheels. Keep the backpack as light as possible.
- Choose shoes that grip the bike's pedals. Cleats, shoes with heels, or flip-flops can all create problems while riding. Kids should never ride barefoot!
Must-know safety tips to for kids (and adults, too):
- Stop at all stop signs and obey traffic lights just as cars do. Yield to pedestrians, stop at red lights, and be especially careful at intersections.
- Always ride in the same direction as cars do. Never ride against traffic.
- Older kids: Try to use bike lanes or designated bike routes whenever you can, not the sidewalk! Kids under 10 years: Ride on the sidewalk.
- Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving a driveway, an alley, or a curb.
- Watch traffic closely for turning cars or cars leaving driveways.
- Always walk a bike across busy intersections using the crosswalk and following traffic signals.
- Always ride single file on the street when riding in a group.
- Always pass to their left and call out "On your left!" so they'll watch for you when passing other bikers or people on the street.
- Always use the correct hand signals, using your left arm:
- Left turn: After checking behind you, hold your arm straight out to the left and ride forward slowly.
- Stop: After checking behind you, bend your elbow, pointing your arm downward in an upside down "L" shape and come to a stop.
- Right turn: After checking behind you, bend your elbow, holding your arm up in an "L" shape, and ride forward slowly. Or, hold your right arm straight out from your side.
- Don't ride too close to parked cars; doors can open suddenly.
- Never ride at dusk or in the dark.
- Never share the seat with a friend or ride on the handlebars; only one person should be on a bike at a time. It's easy to lose balance or suddenly swerve into traffic when riding with a passenger.
- Never wear headphones while biking. It's essential to hear everyone else on the road at all times.
- Never stand up while riding a bike.
- Never hitch a ride on a moving vehicle.
- Never change directions or lanes without first looking behind you.
Check your child's bike at least once each season to keep it safe and well-maintained.
Be sure to check:
- Tires: Inflate to the pressure that's recommended on the sidewall of the tire
- Chain: Oil it regularly and remove dirt
- Handlebars: Adjust for height as your child grows and tighten
- Brakes: Check for frayed cables and replace worn-out brake pads
- Seat: Keep the seat level and adjust for height as needed
A Totally Awesome Bike Safety Adventure
Thanks to the generous support of Kohl’s Cares®, the Nemours’ Injury Prevention team has put together a bike safety video for families and schools. Ride along and pick up great bike safety tips including: choosing the right bike helmet, hand signals for bikers, and more.
Learn More About Bike Safety
Trusted insights from KidsHealth.org, the #1 most viewed health site for children, created by the experts at Nemours.
- Bike Safety
This article includes information about:
- Why bicycle safety is so important
- How to properly wear a helmet
- Being seen and keeping safe
- Where to ride
- Road rules
- Hand signals