Teach youth cycling safety
We believe all cyclists should follow the rules and be alert to safety every time they share the road. In this post, we look at how we can teach youth cycling safety to last a lifetime. First, some stats:
- children 5 to 7 are usually just learning to ride a bike
- children 8 to 16, is when they are more likely to be riding near and in traffic
- the older they get, the more peers can influence how the ride
Where do bike crashes happen?
Children are likely to be involved in crashes mid block, entering a road from a driveway or alley; at intersections with stop signs; and while traveling in the same direction as an overtaking car – Bike Safety & Education research.
Learning how to ride safely
Learning to ride a bike is a right of passage. It is a wonderful feeling of freedom and speed. For parents it is the moment when they literally have to ‘let go’ of their child as they wobble down the road. This is how kids learn to combine motor skills and cognitive skills. You can’t ride for them. But you can set them up for cycling safety. The first important steps to cycling injury prevention: children have to know and understand the rules of the road. They should have five or more hours of on-bicycle training. The best programs to teach youth cycling safety include:
- balancing, pedaling, steering, and braking
Physical safety skills:
- searching for traffic (moving the head)
- quickly moving through the chosen traffic gap
- using the brakes to stop at lights and stop signs
- signaling when turning
Sign them up for a beginner bike safety camp – most municipalities offer programs. Or, take advantage of this Ontario Government/ CAA template for hosting bike rodeos. It is a tool kit for elementary schools and local community groups to organize a rodeo to introduce young riders to the rules of the road in cooperation with local police. Sign them up for that too.
Setting a community example
Located within Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area in the town of Whitchurch-Stouffville is an exceptional example of a safety training facility for young children. The Community Safety Village is an indoor learning centre and outdoor miniature village.
It operates as a unique three-way partnership between York Region Paramedic Services, York Regional Police and local municipal fire services. Students from kindergarten to grade five receive hands on lessons in health and safety. Bicycle safety training is offered, along with lessons in traffic, fire and water safety, and basic first aid or CPR education.
Teachers must book early (usually in August), to organize a school trip to the Community Safety Village. Public events and open houses also take place throughout the year, including this year’s charity toy drive for the holidays.
Foster good helmet habits
Speed, inexperience and not wearing protective gear are among leading causes of cycling injuries for children. And, children between ages 10 and 14 is the group least likely to wear a helmet.– Canadian Red Cross
Parents of younger cyclists set an example, and can foster good helmet habits with their kids. The younger, the better. As soon as they are using a wheeled form of transportation. Well, of course you might say.
Start by buying one. Make them wear it. Properly. Every time.
Again, we might sound like your mom here, but no helmet is any good if its not protecting your head. You might be surprised how many still ride without one. And even if they do, a helmet which doesn’t fit correctly, or is not on right is not as effective. Make sure it fits.
Use reflective stripes on clothing and bicycles, and use flickering lights (even during daylight hours) to make cyclist more visible to motorists–Canadian Red Cross
We couldn’t agree more. Some interesting ideas we have seen include LED caps for air tubes. They are really visible when the bike is in motion for cross traffic. Reflectors can be ‘cool’ and make a safety statement.
As the saying goes, “it’s like riding a bike.” Muscle memory you never forget. When children learn to love cycling, and do it safely, they can ride their whole lifetime. We want to encourage everyone to be part of the solution by taking bike safety seriously. Make sure children have the right equipment and enroll them in programs which teach youth cycling safety skills, before they hop on and pedal down the road.
The Vision Zero programs do not seem to be working. We examined some of the causes and solutions in our 3-part crash course in road safety. Now we seek small, practical steps all road users can take to prevent pedestrian and cyclist injury on our streets. Come along for the ride, er, read. In our next post, we will look at what motorists can do to stay safe on shared roads.
And, stay tuned, we are testing some easy-to-attach reflective items perfect for a youngster’s bike, helmet and backpack…until then, take the time to be alert.