Coquitlam summer cycle safety

When it comes to bike safety for children, advice to parents is simple: teach them as if their life depends on it.

And then practice what you preach.

With summer here, young cyclists will take to roads in increasing numbers as they head for parks, corner stores, friends' houses, and other daily destinations.

Nothing can guarantee accidents won't happen but there are steps parents can take to better their child's odds on the road.

For starters, get them a helmet.

Canada Safety Council claims 85 per cent of head injuries can be prevented by using a helmet. Transport Canada statistics for 2001 show that, of cyclists younger than 15 killed that year, none was wearing a helmet.

Simply strapping a helmet on is not enough. If it doesn't fit properly, it may as well not be worn. Helmets should sit level over a child's forehead, about 3 cm above the eyebrows. The chin strap should be snug but comfortable — they should be able to chew gum — with the front and rear straps meeting just below each ear.

On every rider, helmets should protect the forehead, and should not move unless the scalp moves.

A proper-fitting bike is also key.

Children should be able to straddle their bike with both feet on the ground. A bike that's too big will be hard to manoeuver, hinder balance and braking ability.

To judge fit, check that there's a slight bend in your child's knee when the ball of their foot is on the pedal at the bottom of a pedal stroke. Handlebars should sit about an inch below the bike seat. Children should be able to reach their bike handles without fully extending their arms, and should never lock their arms while riding.

For younger children, a bike with a coaster brake is recommended. Other minimum requirements are a bell and reflectors. Most children will transition into geared bikes and hand brakes between six and nine years old.

Once outfitted, children need rules. Don't play on the road, no riding on busy streets, and no riding at night are a few CSC recommendations.

Children must be taught to stop for all stop signs, to ride on the right with traffic, and to make their own decisions when riding with other cyclists — never follow the leader.

They should walk across busy streets, scan, signal and make eye contact with motorists before turning left, and never ride straight out of a driveway.

Before hitting the road, it's recommended they practice riding in a straight line, riding one-handed, and changing gears without looking down.

The majority of bicycle injuries occur less than five blocks from home. Most result from falls, collisions with stationary objects, and collisions with other bikes or pedestrians resulting from the cyclist losing control.

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