Keeping Your Family Safe While Biking
As the weather warms up here in New England, we are all ready to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors. Family bike rides are an enjoyable way to spend time together and get exercise. To ensure everyone has a fun time, thinking about bike safety for bike riders or bike passengers is essential. Every year there are over 400,000 bike accidents in the United States every year, resulting in 700-800 deaths. Most of these take place in the after school and early evening hours.
Common Bike Injuries
Head injuries can happen and can be serious if the bike is moving at a high speed or involves a car. If the child is not awake, call 911 immediately. If the child is awake, assess the child to see if they need emergency services. You will also want to watch out for any cuts that may require attention or any signs of concussion like headache, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, and confusion.
Abdominal injuries can happen when a child falls onto the handle bars. If the child has stomach pain, blood in urine or vomiting they will need to be evaluated.
Fracture, or broken bones usually the wrist or arm are common. If the bone looks deformed, there is swelling and pain in a specific area or if they can’t walk or use their limb, they will need to be evaluated.
CUTS AND SCRAPES
Cuts, scrapes and bruises are common for all bike riders. The wound should be cleaned with soap and water, an antibacterial ointment applied, and kept clean with a dressing. If there is foreign material such as glass, gravel, or splinted, the wound may need to be evaluated.
When can my child learn to ride?
A 2 or 3 year old should be able to start practicing on a tricycle. Most children learn to ride without training wheels or assistance between ages 4 and 7. For younger children who are over the age of 12 months it is safe for them to accompany an adult on a ride in either an attached baby seat or a trailer.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Infants less than 12 months old should not accompany the family on a bike ride. This is because their necks are not strong enough to be safe if an accident happens.
A toddler may ride in an infant seat or a trailer. There are two types of infant seats: front mounted and rear mounts. These seats should have adjustable shoulder and lap belts. They should be fitted to your child and should be snug. Your child should also wear a helmet in the seat or trailer
A front mounted seat keeps your child close to you. Because it cannot recline it should not be used for children that fall asleep while biking. When picking out a seat, make sure to choose one with a higher back. This will ensure the shoulder straps stay in place.
A rear mounted seat is attached over the rear wheel. They recline slightly so are safe if your child falls asleep. They often come with guards to protect hands from wheels.
A trailer is pulled behind your bike. It offers stability because it is close to the ground and often can hold two children. The trailer should meet ASTM safety standards. Using a flat and a rear mounted flashing light is recommended to increase visibility of the trailer. Trailers should not be used on busy roads but quiet neighborhoods, bike path, and parks are great locations for using a trailer.
How Can I Keep My Child Safe?
• Use a Proper Fitting Bike
• Helmets and other protective gear
• Following Rules of the Road
A bike should be fitted to your child now and not to be “grown” into. Your child should be able to sit on the seat and both feet should be able to touch the ground. For more information about bike fitting please check out. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Choosing-the-Right-Size-Bicycle.aspx.
Helmets are essential for all bike riders, parents included! Wearing your helmet sets a good example to your child about the importance of protecting your head. Helmets should be worn even on a tricycle, even in the yard, even in your driveway.
Helmets need to fit appropriately. Bikers should wear a bike helmet or a multi-sport helmet that is certified for bikes. A football helmet or a helmet for another sport is not adequate to protect your child from injury. A safe helmet will be certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
To fit correctly the helmet needs to sit square on the top of your child’s head covering the top of the forehead. The chin strap should be snug. The helmet should not be able to be pulled or tipped back or pushed forward. https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/8019_fitting-a-helmet.pdf
Most children’s helmets are hard-shelled helmets but some toddler helmets are soft-shelled. They are soft-shelled so that younger children can hold their head up easier.
Most children do need equipment other than a helmet. Children that do tricks on the bike, BMX or trail biking should consider knee, elbow, and wrist pads.
It is also important to be dressed appropriately for biking. A child should wear sturdy shoes and make sure their pants or skirt are not loose enough to catch in the wheel or the chain. Bright clothing is recommended to make your child more visible.
Rules of the Road:
Your child should be taught the “Rules of the Road” before venturing out on a bike.
• Get off bike to cross a road
• Ride with traffic
• No headphones, talking or texting on a phone
• Signal when turning (if they can’t keep the bike stable when signaling, they should not be on a
• No riding at night even with reflector vest or light
Taking proper safety precautions will ensure your family has a fun and healthy adventure. Enjoy the warm weather!
Children’s Health Care of Newburyport, Massachusetts and Haverhill, Massachusetts is a pediatric healthcare practice providing care for families across the North Shore, Merrimack Valley, southern New Hampshire, and the Seacoast regions. The Children’s Health Care team includes pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners who provide comprehensive pediatric health care for children, including newborns, toddlers, school aged children, adolescents, and young adults. Our child-centered and family-focused approach covers preventative and urgent care, immunizations, and specialist referrals. Our services include an on-site pediatric nutritionist, special needs care coordinator, and social workers. We also have walk-in appointments available at all of our locations for acute sick visits. Please visit chcmass.com where you will find information about our pediatric doctors, nurse practitioners, as well as our hours and services.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.