With the return of spring, excited children can finally get their bikes back on the road. Cycling is a fun activity and a great way to get some exercise while enjoying the fresh air and warmer weather.
Each year, many children suffer injuries while riding bikes. Fortunately, most injuries can be prevented if your child is prepared and has an understanding of cycling safety.
Manitoba law requires that all children under 18 wear helmets while cycling. In order to be effective, a helmet must be fitted correctly. Each time your child puts on her helmet, check the fit.
Teach older children to check their own helmets by remembering the 2V1 rule.
• 2: When the helmet is in place, there should be room for two fingers between the bottom of the helmet and the eyebrows
• V: The straps should form a V just below the ears
• 1: There should be just enough room for one finger to fit between the chin strap and chin
The helmet should fit comfortably and stay in place when your child moves his head up and down and side to side.
For both comfort and safety, your child should ride a bike that is the correct size. When he stands, straddling the bike with both feet flat on the ground, there should be one to three inches of space between his body and the top bar. When he sits on the seat, the balls of both feet should touch the ground.
Before each bike ride, check that the tires have enough air, the seat and handlebars are tight, and the brakes work. Older children should know to check these things themselves.
Bike or walk alongside young children as they learn to ride a bike with confidence. Children up to about age 10 should ride their bikes on the sidewalk. When your child is ready to ride on the street alone, be sure she understands how to read all traffic signs, and that she knows how to use hand signals for turning and stopping.
The most serious potential injuries are a result of collisions with vehicles, so all cyclists need to pay close attention to traffic when sharing the road.
However, the majority of bicycle injuries are a result of falls, collisions with stationary objects, pedestrians or other bikers, or from losing control of the bike. Remind your child to always be aware of his surroundings when cycling.
Set a good example for your children by wearing a helmet and obeying the rules of the road when you bike together.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
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