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National Bike Month & Bicycle Safety Awareness Month

girl bikeLearning to ride a bike is one of childhood’s treasured milestones. It is important to keep safety in mind while having fun on family bicycle outings.

“Wearing a helmet is a good idea, especially when kids are first learning to balance on a bike without the training wheels,” shared James Murphy, a sales associate and mechanic with Olde Towne Bicycles in Fredericksburg. “Allow them to ride on a soft spot like the grass to keep them safe so they can fall down and get back up while they are getting the hang of it. I would say wearing a helmet is the most important thing.”

Make sure your child’s helmet covers his forehead and is tight enough that only two fingers fit between the chin strap and your child’s chin. The helmet should not be loose enough that it moves side to side when your child is wearing it.

Being aware of where you are and what is around you while you are riding is also a good idea.

“It is so important that children learn to pay attention to their surroundings,” said Andre Randolph, manager of Bike Works in Fredericksburg. “Traffic patterns, vehicles pulling out of driveways and parking spaces, and even other bicycles can pose a safety hazard. Children should learn the rules of the road such as hand signals, riding with traffic, and obeying traffic signs and signals. Very young children should stay on the sidewalk.”

Cycling is fun, but accidents can still happen. To avoid a mishap, “Children should remain in control of their bicycle at all times,” Randolph pointed out. “Even if your child is confident enough to ride with no hands, they should always ride with at least one hand. Your child’s progress in learning to ride is directly related to their comfort level. Making your child as comfortable as possible with the fit and size of their bicycle will instill confidence and speed up the learning process.”

In addition to ensuring your child’s bike is the right fit and size, parents should also make sure the bicycle is routinely maintained. Check to make sure the brakes work and that the bike seat and tires aren’t loose before each ride.

“Regularly check the tire pressure of your bicycle,” Randolph added. “Improper tire pressure can lead to punctures and added rolling resistance. Make sure the fasteners on the bicycle are properly tightened. Nuts and bolts on the wheels, handlebars, seats and pedals should be properly tightened as not to come loose during riding.”

Other simple safety tips include wearing proper footwear and avoiding the use of headphones while riding a bike as well as avoiding riding a bike at night. If you are out after dark, wear light clothing and use a headlight and taillight so that others will see you.

“You don’t want to attract unnecessary attention to yourself,” said Randolph. “Riding in a fashion that attracts a driver’s attention can create target fixation issues and increase the chances of an altercation.”

Bicycling is a great way to spend time together as a family and get in shape.

“Parents can teach their children about bicycle safety and have fun at the same time by making a game out of the process,” Randolph suggested. “The game Follow the Leader could be adapted to teach bicycle safety.”

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