Road Safety Tips for Kids Who Are Ready to Ride on their Own

Six tips to keep your budding cyclist secure on the road

A young girl fastens the strap of her bike helmet

So, your kids have reached the age when they want to start biking by themselves. It’s an exciting time, but it can also be nerve wracking sending your child out into the world on their own. Fret not, though. By following the tips below, your aspiring cyclist will be able to safely and comfortably learn to ride on their own.

1. Don't let them ride by themselves too soon

It's one of the first questions parents ask when it comes to cycling: when should I let my child ride on the road? It's a hard question to answer because kids develop at different paces and some neighbourhoods are safer for cycling than others. But generally, by the age of 10, most kids can keep their bike upright and, importantly, navigate traffic.

2. Make sure they're experienced enough to ride solo

Before your kids head off on their own for the first time, put their cycling skills to the test. Take them onto a quiet side street and watch how they react to cars, pedestrians and other cyclists. If they handle themselves well, their days of needing a chaperone are probably over.

3. Load them up with safety gear

It’s crucial that your kids have the proper safety equipment before hopping on their bikes. First, they'll need a proper fitting helmet. To check the fit, follow the 2V1 rule: the helmet should rest two finger widths above their eyebrows, the straps around the ears should form a “v”, and you should be able to fit one finger between their chin and the strap. Your child's bike will also need a bell or horn and two lights—a white light on the front and red light on the back. (A red reflector on the rear is also okay.)

4. Make sure their bike is in tip-top shape

Before your child's tires hit the pavement, check their bike for mechanical problems. If you're not a mechanic, don't worry—just follow the ABC checklist.

  • A is for air: check that the bike's tires are properly inflated and free of holes.
  • B is for brakes, bar and bell: squeeze the brake levers to make sure they work and survey the brake pads for wear. Ensure the handlebar is the right height; your child should be able to ride comfortably without straining their back. Finally, check their bell to make sure it dings.
  • C is for Chain and Crank: make sure the chain is well-oiled, free of gunk and sitting securely on the gears. Twirl the crank—it should spin smoothly—and change the gears—they should shift easily.

 

5. Teach your kids the rules of the road

For kids, one of the keys to staying safe is following the rules of the road, some of which may vary by municipality. Remind them not to weave between parked cars and to keep a safe distance from all parked vehicles. (This will help them avoid being hit by an opening car door.) Tell them to stop at all red lights and stop signs, making sure the coast is clear before proceeding through an intersection. Get them to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks and for school buses that have their lights flashing. Finally, teach them what road signs mean and show them how to signal turns using the correct gestures.

6. Talk about potential dangers

Your kids will probably face some challenges on the road, so prepare them for those before they start biking solo. Remind them to be careful when riding on sidewalks, to yield to pedestrians and to keep their eyes peeled for cars coming in and out of driveways. (Children are allowed to ride on the sidewalk, but age limits or tire size vary according to municipality. If your municipality does not allow young children to ride on the sidewalk, teach yours to ride on the right-hand side of the street in a straight line.) Instruct them to get off their bike and walk across crosswalks and busy intersections, always looking out for cars. Tell them to do regular shoulder checks, which will help them spot vehicles coming up from behind. Finally, remind them to stay behind cars that are turning right; they should never try to squeeze past a turning vehicle.

Keep reading

For more information on how to prepare your kids for solo riding, check out this guide from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. And if you’re a teacher or a school liaison officer looking for road-safety-related lesson plans, visit Ontario Road Safety Resource.

Image credit: iStock.com/damircudic

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