While putting a child in charge of a bike isn’t nearly as frightening as letting them go behind the wheel of a car, there are certain things parents need to be aware of before letting kids on the road. Over ninety percent of all bike-related accidents involving children take place in broad daylight, and while most riders involved in fatal crashes are adults the chances of your child being seriously hurt spikes once they’ve hit their early teens. Which means if they’re cycling to school every morning, or are playing outside on their bike with friends you definitely need to know they can be trusted to follow the rules.
Make sure that they aren’t wearing headphones or listening to music while cycling and that they’re paying attention to everyone on the road including cyclists, road users and pedestrians. Suggest that they fit a camera, or Go-Pro to the front of their bike as that way if they were involved in an accident they would have evidence of what happened. Many people see kids as a bit of a soft target and will try to intimidate teenage road users so cameras make a possible confrontation much less likely. If your child likes to record his rides a Go-Pro will also show him how much distance he covered, pick up on things in the background he may not have noticed and help to convince a worried parent that your son is perfectly safe on and off the cycle path.
Do They Listen To You?
A good way of know if the time’s coming for you to stop chaperoning, or shadowing your kids is by observing their behaviour on the road. Are they using the correct safety procedures? Taking the ride seriously? Using the proper hand signals? Children who are aware of not only their, but other road users safety will obey the law i.e. not ride on pavements, stick to the edge of the road as much as possible and look behind them when slowing down.
If you’ve notice that your child instantly obeys you while cycling, and takes the initiative not only to use the proper signals where appropriate but also to inform you of any obstacles, or issues on the path ahead then they’re on the right track. Have a look at your cycle insurance to see if you need to change any rider tick boxes as telling them your child will be cycling alone could alter your payment plan. Look out for any hesitance when riding one handed and wobbly wheels as these are signs that they may not have full control of the bike yet. Kids who are ready to go it alone will be confident but not cocky, manoeuvring and signaling with ease as well as knowing what gear to use.
Are They Wearing The Right Gear?
Biking safely requires users to wear the correct gear including helmet, gloves and reflective strips or bright coloured clothing that alerts other road users to your presence. Check their helmet is positioned correctly on their head and that your child knows how to adjust the strap if needed. Test them with a few simple questions to see if they know when, and how to use their rearview mirror, how to replace a faulty bike light and what to do if they’re involved in an accident as well as what to pack in their saddle bag. Elbow and shin pads, or protective leather if they’re speed or stunt riding are also extremely useful, and they should automatically put them on every time they go for a ride.
Would They Spot A Maintenance Issue?
We’re not saying that they need to be a Halfords bike specialist, but they should know how to a repair a puncture, check the tyre and inner tube pressure, check the brakes and lights as well as replace loose, or broken bike chains. It’s important that your child knows the difference between a bike that’s roadworthy and one that isn’t to avoid any problems. If they’ve alerted you promptly to problems in the past and taken on the responsibility of taking the bike to get it fixed, then chances are, you’ve taught them as much as you can.
Bike safety is paramount when it comes to long, cross country rides as well as when navigating through busy city centres. An unchecked puncture or loose chain is an accident waiting to happen. It may be worth also buying budding cyclists their own roadside puncture repair kit, industry standard safety clothing, a portable solar powered GPS and satellite phone and a lightweight fold up jacket, or parka in case of sudden inclement weather.