How to Safely Ride a Bike With Your Child
Steer clear of danger by following some simple rules of the road
Your kid has finally graduated from a trike to a bike and you can ride together. Whether this means a bicycle ride for two or a family outing, have a safe trip by following some basic guidelines for riding bikes in a group.
Get ready to roll
Start with a pre-ride safety check. Make sure bike helmets (yours included) are adjusted properly. Check that no one is wearing something that can get tangled in the bicycle wheel spokes, like loose pant legs or untied shoelaces. Speaking of which, sturdy footwear, like sneakers or flat shoes, are a must: No flip-flips or bare feet.
Bikes should be outfitted for safety too. A loud bell or other noise-maker is a smart addition. Daytime running lights can increase visibility. Jeff Palter, a biking expert and owner of The Cycle Loft in Burlington, Massachusetts, recommends mounting set of small LED lights in clear and red to the front and rear of all bikes. You might also attach rear-view mirrors to each bike. This way everyone can keep an eye out for cars coming from behind, and if you’re riding in front of a child you’ll be able to keep an eye on him.
Related: 5 Gadgets to Make Biking Safer
Another smart tip for bike riding with a child: Jot your name and cell phone number on a note card and attach it to your kid’s bike basket or tuck it in his pocket in case you get separated.
Rule number one of bike riding in a group: Make sure you’re all on the same page about where you’re going, the route you’ll take and how you’ll communicate. “Have a huddle before you head off,” suggests Lee Uehara, education manager at CityBikeCoach.com, a bicycle school in New York City. Here are some important things to discuss.
Who goes first — kids or adults? This largely depends on where you’re biking, says Kate Powlison, senior marketing and communications manager at PeopleForBikes, an organization dedicated to making the roads safe for bikers. On a road with traffic, Powlinson recommends a grown-up lead the way in order to keep an eye out for traffic and hazards like potholes and debris. If there are two adults, a kid (or kids) can ride sandwiched between them. “If you’re on a quiet side street or a wide open bike path, you can even cycle side by side as long as you keep an eye out for other riders and pedestrians,” she explains.
In some cities and towns, it’s OK for kids to ride on sidewalks. If this is the case where you live, stay on the road and ride alongside your child.
How will you communicate? Stay within voice range of your child, but also teach her basic hand signals. This is especially important if you’ll be riding in traffic, so that she can signal to cars when she’s about to turn. To show a left turn, fully extend the left arm, keeping it parallel to the ground. To indicate a right turn, extend the right arm or hold out the left arm with the elbow bent 90 degrees.
When sharing the road with runners, walkers and other bike riders, tell your kid to warn someone she’s about to pass by calling out “On your right” or “On your left.”
The rules of the road. “Bike riders are expected to obey the same traffic laws as motorists,” says Palter. “This includes signaling before turns, stopping at lights and yielding where it’s indicated.” Your child will be watching and following your every move, so it’s important to help make safe bike riding second nature to her by practicing it yourself.