For many adults, riding our bike is one of our most treasured childhood memories. Nowadays, however, most kids spend their school holidays and weekends indoors, watching DVDs and playing on computer games. It’s easy to blame the ‘couch potato’ kids for this, but actually, research has found that often it is the parents these days who are stopping their little ones from exploring in the same ways that we did. Fears of children getting lost or hurt by strangers, high volumes of traffic or an accident somewhere off the beaten track all contribute to people keeping their kids indoors; but we are actually denying children of fun childhood memories by doing this.
Getting out on their bike is a brilliant way for kids to get some exercise, have fun and also gain essential life skills such as independence and self-confidence. If you teach your children all that they need to know to stay safe while out on their bikes, then they can go and enjoy themselves and you can have peace of mind knowing that they’re having fun and staying safe.
Here are some of the top things to teach your children:
Safety-Checking Their Bike
Firstly, it is your responsibility to ensure that your children are going out on a bike that is safe. Bikes need to be the right size for a child; they should be able to reach the handlebars and brakes comfortably, and their feet should be able to touch the floor when they are sitting down. You should also make sure that the handlebars, seat and wheels are all securely fitted and tight. Brakes should be tested and tyres should also have plenty of air in them. Once you have carried out this initial inspection, teach your child what they should be checking for and get them in the habit of doing this before each journey.
Wearing the Right Clothes
We all know that kids can be quite fussy when it comes to what to wear, but explain to them the importance of wearing the correct safety gear – it really could be a matter of life and death. Helmets are the most important item that your child cannot be without. Make sure that it fits properly and that your little one wears it properly: the straps need to be secure and the front of the helmet needs to cover the forehead. Additional safety items such as elbow and knee pads should be worn to protect these important joints if the child has a fall.
Next, teach your children about the proper footwear they should wear when riding a bike. Flimsy shoes such as sandals won’t give them the right amount of grip, so trainers are probably best. However, they need to remember to keep their laces well tied so as to avoid getting them tangled in the pedal or spokes. Similarly, they should avoid wearing long skirt or flared trousers, as this excess material can also cause problems.
Basic Road Safety
Younger children should stick to riding on pavements and never venture into the road; however, even on pavements there can be plenty of hazards. Teach your children to look out for cars pulling out of driveways or alleyways, and also not to ride too close to parked cars in case a door suddenly opens and knocks them from their bike. In built-up areas, the safest thing to do may be to have your child walk their bikes along the pavements until they reach a safe place for them to ride, such as a park.
It is essential that you teach kids not to listen to music on their headphones while riding; this can distract them and block out important noise coming from traffic and other road users.
You will need to teach your children basic personal safety, which will be useful to them on other occasions when they are not on their bikes. Explain to them that it is important to stick to busy, well-lit areas – especially if they are alone or just with one or two other friends. Make sure that they know not to go with anybody they don’t know, and that it is okay for them to ask other adults for help if they are feeling threatened by somebody.
If they are taking personal possessions out with them, then make sure they keep these in a backpack or somewhere else secure. Teach them not to leave their belongings on show, particularly if they are valuable.
Above all, make sure that your children stick to routes and areas that they are familiar with so that they always know where to go if they need help. Agree on a time that they should be back by and be strict in making them stick to this.
The fun can begin!
Once you have taught your child these basic safety tips for going out on their bikes, they should be able to start making short trips out by themselves. Begin small; perhaps let them go to the local shop unaccompanied on their bike. As their confidence – as well as yours – grows, they will be able to start making longer trips. By making sure that you children’s friends are being taught the same tips by their parents, you can be happy in the knowledge that they are keeping safe and having fun.