BicycleSource Newsletter

For children, cycling is freedom and adventure. They get to go fast under their own power. They feel good on their bikes. Children from the age of nine are gaining their independence. They are also beginning to develop the physical and mental skills needed to make safe decisions consistently on the road as an operator of a vehicle.

Cycling is a life-long activity. When children learn good cycling habits early they can stay safe. You have an important role to play in helping your Make sure your child is riding a bike child learn good cycling habits. You can help:

The information below offers you some important aspects of cycling to discuss with your children. The best thing you can do is be involved in your children's cycling.
  1. The Bicycle is a Vehicle: The Rules of the Road Are for You

    The bicycle is a vehicle. It does not matter what age the cyclist. The cyclist must obey the rules of the road and all the traffic signs. Obeying the rules of the road means you can stay safe.
    Stop at all stop signs and red lights
    Ride on the right hand side of the road.

  2. Ride a Bike That Fits

    Make sure your child is riding a bike that fits and is in good working order. A bike that is too big cannot be controlled properly and can be dangerous. It is not safe to buy a big bike with the idea that the child will grow into it.

    A child should have both feet flat on the ground when standing straddling the top tube of the bike. The child should be able to touch the ground with the toes of one foot while sitting on the seat without leaning the bike.

    Make sure the wheels are on tight and that the brakes work. A bell or horn is required by law, and so is a red rear reflector and a front white light if you cycle at night.

  3. Wear a Bike Helmet!

    Wearing a bike helmet can save you and your child from serious injury or death. Wearing a bike helmet reduces the risk of brain injury by 88%. Your children may never have a collision with a car, but they will probably fall off their bikes at some point. Even at low speeds, if the head hits the ground brain damage can occur.

    In Ontario, helmets are required by law for children under 18. The fine is $75.00. The average cost of a helmet is $20.00. Look for the CSA sticker on the helmet.

  4. Children Under Age 9 Should be Supervised When They Cycle

    Children learn new skills as they grow. Before age 9 most children do not have the skills to cycle safely on the road. Learning to balance a bike is only the first step. Understanding how traffic works takes time and experience. Before age 9 children need help to make good choices.

  5. Driveways can be Dangerous

    Many children are hurt and some are killed every year because they cycle down the driveway and into the street without looking. They get hit by a car that has no chance of stopping in time.

    A driveway is an intersection. Teach your children to:
    • Stop before entering the road. If there are parked cars, they should stop and look again at the edge of the cars.

    • Look left, centre, right then left again.

    • If there is no traffic, then they can go.

    Practice these steps with your children at the driveway at your house or apartment.

  6. Riding on the Sidewalk is not Always Safe

    For young cyclists sidewalks may be the best place to cycle. But sidewalks are not always safe. Children need help from their parents to stay safe when they ride on the sidewalk.

    There are driveways and alleys that cross the sidewalk. Cars can turn into a driveway quickly and the driver may not see a young cyclist. Driveways and alleys, doorways and paths are all intersections. Conflict can happen and people can get hurt.

    Sometimes sidewalks are bumpy and children can lose control of their bikes and fall. Pedestrians and pets are also on the sidewalk and are often unpredictable. Pedestrians have the right of way on the sidewalk and they do not expect cyclists to be there too.

    At the end of the block the sidewalk ends and the road begins. Will your child be able to stop in time?

    Be with your child as he or she cycles on the sidewalk.

    Help them to stop to check possible danger spots.

    Help children respect pedestrians on the sidewalk.

    Communities have different rules about cycling on the sidewalk. In general, when children have developed the necessary skills (age nine and up) the safest place to ride in their neighborhood is on the road, where motorists can see them.

  7. Crossing the Street Takes Practice

    Children need help to understand when it is safe to cross the road. Crossing the road can mean crossing at the corner, crossing at a crosswalk or crossing in the middle of the block.

    Young children should walk across the street. They should learn to check left, centre, right, then left again before deciding if it is safe to cross the street. They should not cycle across the street because then they cannot check properly for traffic while they are thinking about finding their pedal and regaining their balance.

    Children younger than 7 should not cross any street alone. Children younger than nine should not cross busy streets alone. You must walk your bike when crossing the street at a crosswalk. In Ontario it is the law.

  8. Children Should Learn to Make Their Own Decisions

    If a child is cycling with friends he or she may just follow the cyclist in front. This is dangerous. Traffic is changing all the time. And breaking a law, like riding through a stop sign, is still wrong even if a friend did it first.

    Help children learn that they are responsible for their own vehicles and must make good and safe decisions for themselves.

  9. Never Make a Turn Without Looking Behind you First

    When cyclists are riding on the road or on a bike trail they must always look over their shoulder first before signaling and turning. Children may have been taught their signals, but they usually do not know to make a shoulder check. It can be a lifesaver. Cyclists must check to see if the way is clear to make the turn safely.

    If there is traffic a child should stop by the side of the road and wait for a gap.

  10. Enroll in a Safe Cycling Skills Course

    Cyclists who take a cycling course for children or adults reduce their chances of being involved in an accident and gain confidence about cycling more often and in more situations.

Courtesy the Ontario Cycling Association.
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