Four Keys to Safe Bicycling

child with bike helmet

Bicycling is fun, a source of good exercise and good for the environment. By taking steps to prevent accidents and avoid injuries (and teaching children to do the same), you and your family can enjoy riding bicycles safely for many years to come.

  • Young children should ride on the sidewalk or bike paths instead of on the street.
  • Adults should ride with children until they are comfortable that the child is ready to ride on their own.
  • Adults should set a good example and wear a properly fitted helmet and obey all traffic rules.

Know the Basics

  • Wear a properly fitted helmet – this can reduce the risk of head injuries by up to 85 percent.
  • Be visible – wear bright colors, use lights. Reflectors on your clothes and bike will help you to be seen.
  • Stay alert – watch for cars backing out of driveways.
  • Know and obey traffic rules – stop at all stop signs and stop lights.
  • Learn hand signals – signal whenever changing lanes or direction
  • Be predictable – don't swerve between cars
  • Use a bell or horn – when riding on bike or walking paths, to indicate when you intend to pass.

Choose the Right Bike Size

Riding a bicycle that is too large or too small hinders your child's ability to control the bicycle. 

Guide to Kid's Bike Sizes 
Age             Child's Height         Tire Diameter (outside)
Age 2 - 5         26 - 34 inches        12 inches
Age 4 - 8         34 - 42 inches        16 inches
Age 6 - 9         42 - 48 inches        18 inches
Age 8 - 12       48 - 56 inches        20 inches
Youth               56 - 62 inches        24 inches

Perform a Safety Check

Adults and Children should do a safety check of the bicycle every time before riding.

  • Make sure the brakes are working properly.
  • Check the tires and ensure they are properly inflated.
  • Ensure the chain is tight.
  • Make sure the seat and handle bars are tight and straight.
  • Replace any broken spokes before riding.
  • Make sure reflectors and headlights are clean and securely attached.

Set Clear Rules for Children

Young Children:

  • Ride on sidewalks, not in the street.
  • Adult supervision – avoid riding at dusk or after dark.
  • Always stop if a car is in the driveway with backup lights on.
  • Always stop and look before crossing a street to ensure it is safe to cross (always look left/right/left).
  • Always walk your bicycle across the street.
  • Only cross the street at corners, never in the middle of the block.

Older Children and Teens:

  • Avoid riding at dusk or after dark. If riding after dark is unavoidable, wear reflective, light colored clothing and use white headlamps, use a rear red blinker / reflector on bicycle
  • Obey all traffic signs, signals and laws when riding in the street.
  • Ride on the right side of the street, with the traffic.
  • Use correct hand signals for stopping and turning
  • Keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. Carry books and other items in a backpack or rear wheel basket.

When riding your bicycle and a dog chases you, ignore the dog or firmly yell, "NO." If the dog continues chasing you, stop and dismount, and keep the bicycle between you and the dog.

Penny Lentz is the Safe Kids Winnebago County Coalition Coordinator. For more information, call (779) 696-6088.