While riding a bike is a great way for kids to get exercise, thousands of children are injured in bike crashes each year.
According to Gregory P. Weaver, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, the single most effective way to reduce injury and death from a bicycle crash is to wear a helmet.
“It’s good to look for a helmet that’s certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” he said. “It will say CPSC on the inside of the helmet. The helmet should also fit tightly and come down to just above the eyebrows.”
Weaver said a bike helmet should be tight enough so that when you put it on the child’s head, it stays in place and doesn’t move around.
The helmet should also have a well-fitting chin strap on the bottom.
If there is visible damage to a helmet, such as a crack in the outer casing or a crack on the inside foam, it needs to be replaced.
Also, if the helmet has been involved in a crash, or if a child has outgrown it – it’s time to get a new one.
In addition to the right gear, Weaver said parents need to make sure older children, who may ride unsupervised, know the rules of the road, especially if they are going to travel on the street.
He said all bicyclists should learn to use proper hand signals, stop at stop signs and red lights and use crosswalks appropriately.
Another key to staying stay safe while cycling is to know which way to ride on the road.
“You should be traveling with, not against, traffic,” said Weaver. “It can be very confusing for drivers of cars if they see a bike rider coming at them. Often people think that it may be better to be facing traffic, so they can see the car coming toward them, but it actually contributes to more bicycle crashes to be riding against traffic.”
Weaver said statistics show most bike-related injuries happen between dusk and dawn, so parents should only permit children to ride their bikes during the daylight hours.
However, he said when proper safety measures are taken, riding a bike is one of the best things children can do to get exercise.
“Get out and ride your bike,” said Dr. Weaver. “Bike safety and injury prevention are important, but it’s also really important to move your body. The best exercise is the exercise you like doing because you’ll keep doing it.”