The street is the safest place to ride a bike, for an experienced cyclist. Riding in the street allows bicyclists to follow the flow of traffic and the rules of the road. For children, street riding may not be the best choice for preventing personal injury.
Every month, three out of four U.S. children ride a bike but unfortunately, too many get hurt. More than a quarter of a million children age 14 and younger sustain a non-fatal bicycle-related personal injury every year, with a majority of the personal injuries occurring during the warmer months.
Still, many parents feel the sidewalk is the safest place for their novice cyclists. Those folks can rest easy knowing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agrees with them. The NHTSA states that young children lack the maturity to make decisions necessary to safely ride in the street and recommends they ride their bikes on the sidewalks. Make sure to check the law in your state or jurisdiction to ensure sidewalk riding is allowed.
Sidewalk riding alone will not prevent personal injury. There are still safety precautions that should be taken to avoid personal injury. Parents should make sure to model bike safety for their children by always wearing a bike helmet and following the rules of the road. Bike helmets are sited as the single most effective device to reduce head injury and death from a bicycle crash. See the article, “Bike Helmets Prevent Personal Injuries” for tips on how to make a bike helmet fit.
Clothing and the right gear can also safeguard children from personal injury. A bike should be tuned-up and well maintained. See the article, “Cyclists Reroute Personal Injury With the Right Accessories” for more information on the safest riding apparel and how to size a bike to the rider to avoid personal injury.
Establishing bike riding rules and setting limits on where the children can (and can’t) ride are good safety tactics to eliminate personal injury.
Other safe sidewalk bike riding practices include:
- Go slow.
- Ride single file.
- Watch for vehicles coming out or turning into driveways. Seven out of ten bike crashes happen at driveways and intersections.
- Yield to pedestrians; alert them when approaching by saying “passing on your left” or sounding a bell or horn.
- Make sure drivers see you. Cross streets at corners and crosswalks; not between parked cars.
- Be prepared to walk your bike when necessary. Whenever there is too much traffic or too many people, get off the bike and walk it.