Bike Safety! Need to know safety rules for children riding bikes....

When the great outdoors beckons on warm summer days, kids are apt to pull on a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops and jump on their bikes. But before the kids head out the door, parents should review the safety rules, says Malisa Rader, a family life program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Start with what the kids are wearing, Rader said. Bike riders should dress for safety.

“The right shoes are important. Leave the flip-flops for pool time. Sandals and slip-on shoes aren’t a good choice either. Insist that your child wear tennis shoes and keep the laces tied. Avoid long skirts, scarves and anything that can catch in wheels or chains. In addition, bright clothing increases visibility,” Rader said.

Then fasten on a bike helmet. Although kids may be resistant to the idea, helmets significantly reduce the risk of head and brain injury and save lives, Rader said. “Teach your kids to actually fasten the chin strap; the helmet doesn’t do any good if it flies off. Helmets can make a fashion statement, as well. Many colorful and fun options now are available.”

Also remember to give the bike a safety check, Rader continued. Be sure reflectors are attached to the rear fender or behind the seat, and to the spokes, pedals and front handlebar area. Check tires and chain; adjust saddle and handlebars to the right height; and adjust brakes as needed.

Finally, review these safety rules with your child, Rader said.

  • Look and listen for vehicles before crossing traffic. If traffic is heavy, teach your child to walk the bike across the street.
  • Yield when in doubt. Vehicles can do great harm no matter who has the right-of-way.
  • Think ahead and plan routes that have bike paths or have less traffic.
  • Obey the basic traffic rules. Stop at stop signs and traffic lights, and ride on the right side of the street.
  • Ride single file when on a street.
  • Anticipate mistakes by others, such as someone backing a car out of a driveway without looking.
  • Prepare for hazards like rain, poor road surfaces, animals and night riding. Watch out for loose rocks, sand or anything that could cause a person to lose his or her balance.
  • Use proper signals in turning and stopping. When coming upon people walking, call out with “coming up behind you,” “on your left” or “on your right.”

“If you have a bike, jump on and join your child often for a safe ride. This gives you a chance to check on bicycling behaviors while enjoying family fun on a summer day,” Rader said.

Malisa Rader is an ISU Extension Family Life Program Specialist housed in the Hamilton County Office. Her education and experiences in the field of early childhood and parenting education have developed her passion to empower and strengthen the well-being of children, families, and the communities in which they live. You can reach her at (515) 832-9597 or

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