Many cities and states have bike lanes and laws that protect bicycle riders. But riders are still at risk of being hit by cars. Therefore, you need to ride carefully, obey the laws, and watch for other vehicles. Always be prepared to stop or take evasive action.
While riding your bicycle:
Obey the rules of the road.
The brain is fragile and easily injured. Even a simple fall can cause brain damage that may leave you with lifelong problems.
When riding a bike, everyone, including adults, should wear helmets. Wear your helmet correctly:
Your local sporting goods store, sports facility, or bike shop can help make sure your helmet fits properly. You can also contact the American League of Bicyclists.
Throwing around bicycle helmets can damage them. If this happens, they will not protect you as well. Be aware that older helmets, passed down from others, may not still offer protection.
Only experienced bicyclists should ride at night. Having the right equipment is a must. Also, try to stay on roads that are familiar and brightly lit.
The following equipment -- required in some states -- will keep you safer:
Having infants in bike seats makes the bike more difficult to manage and harder to stop. Accidents that occur at any speed can injure a young child.
Following some simple rules can help keep you and your child safe.
To be able to ride in a rear mounted bike seat or child trailer, a child must be able to sit without support while wearing a lightweight helmet.
Remounted seats must be securely attached, have spoke guards, and have a high back. A shoulder harness and a lap belt are also needed.
Young children should use bikes with coaster brakes. These are the kind that brake when pedaled backward. With hand brakes, a child's hands should be large enough and strong enough to squeeze the levers.
Make sure bikes are the right size, rather than a size "your child can grow into." Your child should be able to straddle a bike with both feet on the ground. Children cannot handle oversize bikes and are at risk of falling and other accidents.
Even when riding on sidewalks, children need to learn to watch for cars pulling out from driveways and alleys. Also, teach children to watch for wet leaves, gravel, and curves.
Make sure your child is careful about keeping loose pants legs, straps, or shoelaces from getting caught in the spokes of the wheel or bicycle chain. Teach your child to never ride barefoot, or while wearing sandals or flip-flops.
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention. Policy statement -- bicycle helmets. Pediatrics. 2001;108:1030-1032.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Bicycle safety: myths and facts. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/pages/Bicycle-Safety-Myths-And-Facts.aspx. Accessed August 27, 2013.
National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Bicycles. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Bicycles. Accessed August 27, 2013.
National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Kids and bicycle safety. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/kidsandbikesafetyweb. Accessed August 27, 2013.
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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