There has been a significant decline in the number of kids who ride their bikes to school. Most children now are driven to school due to parents’ apprehension with regards to traffic danger and bike injuries. A study found that more than 2.2 million children ages 5 to 17 suffered from bicycle-related injuries from 2006 to 2015. That’s 600 cases per day, or 25 an hour. The most common injuries were to the upper extremities, while 11% accounted for traumatic brain injuries.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) defines a bicycle as either (1) a two-wheeled vehicle having a rear drive wheel solely human-powered; or (2) a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.
The commission issued the Bicycle Requirements Business Guidance, which establishes the requirements for assembly, structural integrity, reflectors, braking, and protrusions, among other things. Failure to meet the requirements will result for the bicycle to be banned under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Helmets are also regulated by the CPSC. A sticker must be seen on the helmet to indicate that it has met safety standards. Even if there have been no reported injuries, a bicycle helmet that does not meet the standards will be recalled.
“My child needs a bigger bike that he can grow into.” This is a common mistake. A small child on a big bike can pose a lot of danger. In an emergency, the child will not be able to react quickly due to the size of the bike he or she is riding. To know if it is the right size for your child, he or she must be able to stand over the bike with both feet on the ground.
“Bikers must ride facing traffic.” Rule of thumb: ride where others expect you. This myth causes a quarter of car and bike crashes, as drivers do not usually look for traffic coming the wrong way.
“We don’t have to worry, our neighborhood is quiet.” The problem is we often take safety for granted when we are in familiar places like our neighborhood.
“My kid needs a 21-speed mountain bike.” No, he does not. Kids usually stop high-tech bikes by dragging their feet or running into something. For their first bike, a sturdy one-speed bike with a coaster brake will do.
Important Bicycling Skills
Once your kid owns a bike, he or she must learn these three important basic cycling skills:
- Riding a straight line. Have your child practice riding on straight paint stripe on the pavement, without veering to either sides.
- Looking back without swerving. On the same stripe, have him ride and look back at your direction. Hold a photo of a car up or hide it behind your back when you call his or her attention. Your child must be able to look back and say “car!” or “no car!” without swerving or going off-balance.
- Stopping and speed control. You can use a wet sponge for this training. On the playground, have the child practice riding slowly towards the wet sponge on the ground and stopping just before hitting it. Increase speed gradually and watch for skidding, which is not good.
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