When kids get a little older, biking to school is great way to help them become more independent. Plus, biking to school establishes a healthy habit that starts their day with fresh air and exercise. A safe arrival is still a parent’s top concern, so here are some safety tips from the National Center for Safe Routes to School to pass along to the kids before they pedal off with their new outfits and backpacks.
Helmets on. Kids should always wear a bicycle helmet. It doesn’t matter if school’s a mile away or just a couple of blocks; head protection is important.
Safety in numbers. See if other families in the neighborhood have kids who can join your child’s two-wheeled trek to school. But do remind them that they should ride in single file, keeping safe distances from each other.
Rules of the road. Ideally, kids will have bike lanes and paths to use, and they should stick to these. Otherwise, they should ride on the right-hand side of the street, in the same direction as the traffic. Make sure that they learn the proper hand signals, and because bicyclists are expected to obey stop signs and other traffic signs, go over what they need to do.
Be car smart. Train your children to be smart bike riders around cars. Even sidewalk riders should slow down or stop at entrances to parking lots and alleys, making sure all is clear before proceeding. If they must ride down neighborhood streets, they should also keep an eye out for parked cars, always looking three cars ahead to see if anyone is inside and about to exit or pull out. When it’s their turn to enter an intersection, they should catch the eye of the waiting motorist first. Someone waiting to make a right turn, for example, might not look to the left and fail to see your child is starting to cross.
Make them visible. To increase their visibility, kids on bikes should wear brightly colored jackets and backpacks. A tall orange safety flag for bikes will also raise their profile on the road.
Keep it loud. Help them prevent collisions with dog walkers, joggers and others who share the path, and install a bell or horn on their bikes. Teach them how to properly approach someone from behind: Sound the bell, announce, “On your left,” and be ready to stop on a dime.
Have practice runs. Before school starts, ride to school together a few times so the kids feel comfortable with the route. Once you get to the school, this is a great time to practice setting the bike into the rack, locking it and unlocking it.