Getting Ready to Roll!
Bicycle Safety for Kids
Those are two words July Lee repeats over and over when teaching kids tips for riding a bicycle. Judy, and her husband Bill, have a passion for riding and for making our communities more “ride-able.” For many community biking events, such as this month’s Bike the Bend in South Bend and Bike for Hospice in fall, they are avid volunteers. But of all the two-wheel activities in which Judy is involved, she is most committed to teaching kids about bicycle safety.
Around third grade, children begin riding their bike independently, and Judy is on a mission to keep them safe. Speaking at area schools, youth groups and Scout organizations, she starts with a basic mantra: “Always wear a helmet.” Judy should know, she’s taken a tumble or two on her own road bike and knows her helmet saved her from severe injuries.
A bike shop can help you fit a helmet properly. It should sit snugly and squarely on your head and not be tipped back. You should be able to fit two fingers under the latched chin strap. In fact, Judy, with help from Bike Michiana Coalition and Michiana Bicycle Association, work to raise funds to provide free helmets for kids at many of her presentations.
Follow The Rules of The Road
Bikes need to obey the same rules as cars when riding on the street. That means stopping at stop signs, red lights and signaling turns. Judy suggests practicing riding with one hand, so you can signal turns with your left arm: a bent arm in the upward position for a right turn, a straight arm to the side for a left turn. If kids aren’t quite steady enough to use hand signals, have them call out their turns. That alerts other bicyclists and nearby drivers.
“Perhaps the most important rule is that bicycles ride in the same direction as traffic,” reminds Judy. She adds, “Stick to the side of the road or use designated bike lanes. Don’t ride two or more abreast.”
If your kids are not ready for riding on roads, utilize an empty parking lot or one of the great bike paths in our area. Judy also offers one critical tip for parents: be a model for bicycle safety yourself. “Parents should wear their helmet, use hand signals and follow rules of the road, too. It’s the best way to impart to children the significance of bicycle safety.”
Parents should also remind kids when gearing up for riding that bicycle gears are fond of “eating” long pants and shoe laces. A rubber band around the ankle and double tying shoe laces will prevent that.
With all the recent emphasis on the health benefits of getting kids outdoors, Judy notes bike riding is a great family activity that gets you moving, so she urges, “Be safe, and get out there and ride!”
More Bike Safety Tips
- Bright clothing helps make you visible to vehicles.
- A bell lets other hikers and bicyclists know you are approaching.
- A simple flashing white front light, and a rear flashing red light, add visibility, even in daylight.
- Put emergency contact info inside your helmet.
- Let someone know where you will be riding.
- One person on a bike! (unless it is a tandem, of course)
To donate money for kids’ helmets, or to volunteer to help with bicycle safety education for kids, contact the Bike Michiana Coalition at 574.586.3472.
Want to know when and where to ride? Here are a few area family-friendly bike paths and events!
- Riverside Trail, South Bend
- East Bank Trail, South Bend
- Pumpkinvine Trail , Goshen and Middlebury
- Prairie Duneland Trail, Lake and Porter counties, IN
- Lake City Greenway, Warsaw and Winona Lake
- Riverfront Trail , Niles, MI
Bike the Bend
May 20, 2012. This is a non-competitive bicycle tour for all ages and skill levels on vehicle-restricted streets, and it’s a great way to explore your community. It goes from St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend to Mishawaka’s Monkey Island and multiple sites in between. Children must register, but they ride free with registered adults. For more information, visit bikethebend.com.