• Bicycle friendly cities like Seattle see die-hard cyclists that proudly brave the wind and rain in the dark days of winter.  With summer finally here, though, the cyclists hitting the street increases dramatically, as does the risk for bicycle collisions.   This risk is even greater with children, who are less capable of making quick decisions and are less visible to motorists.   Here are some tips on bicycle safety and children.

    A Properly Fitted Helmet Can Save A Life

    Helmets protect your biggest asset: your brain.  A cheap investment in a helmet can save your child’s life, but take the time to ensure that the helmet fits properly.  Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), following these easy steps will help you fit and wear your helmet to maximum safety:

    Step 1[1]: Size.  Measure your child’s head for approximate size.  Try the helmet on for a snug fit.  While the helmet sits flat on the top of the head, make sure that the helmet doesn’t rock from side to side.  In your child’s helmet, remove the padding when your child’s head grows.   Remember to select a helmet that fits your child’s head now, not one to “grow into.”

    Step 2: Position.  The helmet should sit level on the top of your head and low on the forehead; one to two fingers above the eyebrow.  The helmet must cover the forehead.

    Step 3: Buckles: Center the buckle under the chin.  Tighten for snugness so no more than one finger can fit under the strap.

    Step 4: Side Straps: Adjust the straps on both sides to form a “V” under and in front of the ears.  Lock the slider.

    Step 5: Final Fitting: Open your mouth wide: does the helmet pull down?  If not, tighten the chin strap.  Make sure the helmet does not rock back and forth or forward into the eyes.  If so, re-adjust the side straps and chin strap.

    Also, be sure to replace a helmet whenever it has been involved in a crash, even if it appears unharmed.

    Helpful Safety Tips

    Before your child‘s feet hit the pedals, check the equipment to ensure that the tires are properly inflated and that the brakes work.  Make sure that your child wears bright, neon or fluorescent colors while riding (day or night) to increase visibility.  Consider installing light reflectors on the bike and helmet.  Even with these precautions, a child should avoid riding at night at all times.

    Per the NHSTA, the safest place for adults to ride is on the street, following the same rules of the road as motorists.  Washington law requires that bicyclists always ride with the flow of traffic.[2]  However, children under 10 years old are not mature enough to make decisions necessary to ride safely in the street.  Children under 10 are much better off riding on the sidewalk.  When riding on the sidewalk, a bicycle rider has all of the rights and responsibilities of any pedestrian.[3]  Have a discussion with your children about alerting nearby pedestrians on sidewalks that they are approaching, watching for vehicles exiting driveways, and entering the street at corners, instead of between parked cars.   A bell or horn can be a very helpful tool for your child’s bike, as well a fun one, too.

    [2] RCW 46.61.100.

    [3] RCW 46.61.755


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