Five safety tips to teach kids when riding on footpaths

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The number one priority when riding a bike for both children and adults is safety.

While riding a bike can be a lot of fun and is a skill for life, it can be a big transition from riding in the backyard to the footpath with other users.

These simple tips will help prepare your child for the footpath, keeping them safe around other users and ultimately making sure they have fun, which is what it’s all about.

TIP 1: EQUIPMENT CHECK – BIKE, HELMET, CLOTHING

helmet

Just like making sure your car is running smoothly before you drive it, the same applies to a bike. Before doing anything else, you want to ensure your child’s bike and safety equipment is in proper working order with the ‘ABCDE bike check’, as AusCycling Head of Methodology Brenton Jones explains.

“You want to make sure there is air in the tyres, both brakes work when pressure is applied and check the chain spins backwards freely. Next, drop the bike from about 5cm above the ground: are there any unusual clangs when you do this? Lastly, check the end of the handlebars are covered. If exposed, it can be dangerous,” Jones says.

Make sure a bell is fitted to the bike too – it helps warn others you are approaching.

Once you are confident the bike is in good condition, the next check is of the helmet, ensuring it is nice and snug on your child’s head, with the 2-2-2 check method.

“Firstly, make sure there are two fingers between your helmet and eyebrows. Next place two fingers in the shape of a V beneath your ears aligning with the strap to ensure a proper fit, and lastly make sure you can place two fingers comfortably between your chin and the strap, you don’t want this strap to be loose,” Jones said.

Finally, you want to make sure your child is wearing comfortable and appropriate clothing and footwear.

“Closed-in sneakers are best for riding - thongs are for the beach, not the bike. And no loose-fitting clothing that might get caught in any of the bike's components. Long sleeve tops can be a good option that helps sun protection too.”

TIP 2: PRACTICE BRAKING

The brakes are one of the most important components of the bike.

Before you go riding, make sure your child is confident in braking – do they know which hand controls the front and the back, and can they brake gently in a controlled manner? Too much pressure too quickly could also result in an untimely accident.

“It’s common when people are new to riding; they sometimes forget what’s the front and what’s the back. Start really simple, [and] say ‘OK this is your front brake, this is your back brake’. And practice controlled braking. So, teach your child to squeeze both brakes gently together, and stop nice and safely, without skidding,” Jones said.

TIP 3: KNOW THE RULES

instructions

The age at which children can ride on footpaths varies between states, so it is best to check with your local Department of Transport website before setting off on a ride.

It’s also important to educate your child about the rules of riding on the footpath before setting out. Explain to them what to do if you approach a pedestrian or if there is an obstacle on the path, and what to do when you get to a road crossing.

“Explain to your child in simple language. For example, if you are approaching another footpath user, ring your bell, [and] we are going to go to the right-hand side of them to go around. But if there is someone coming towards us, we keep to the left. Simple,” Jones said.

If you are riding in a group, best practice is to have one adult on the front, the child in the middle and one adult at the back. If there is only one adult, it’s best to have the child ride at the front.

TIP 4: RIDE WITH YOUR EYES, AND VOICE

Communication is key when it comes to riding. It can point out any potential hazards and inform fellow riders when you might be stopping or turning. While riding, talk in a nice loud voice, giving clear instructions, teaching your child to communicate in this way too.

It’s important too to teach your child to ‘ride with their eyes’, Jones says.

“If kids are riding with their eyes, they are looking up ahead of them, they can see the tree in the distance, they can see the rider coming toward them and they aren’t looking straight down.

“This way they know where they are going and can assess well before they get there.”

TIP 5: HAVE FUN!

Most importantly, Jones says, is to have fun.

“Take frequent stops, hydrate and keep eating. This will not only keep your child’s energy levels up, it will also help to keep them focussed and remembering our other safety tips.

“And don’t forget, riding is supposed to be fun, so stop and take in the scenery and just enjoy it!”

fun


AusBike is the national learn to ride program developed by AusCycling to get Aussie kids back on their bikes.

If you would like help from the experts to get your kids enjoying life on two wheels, find out more here and you can receive updates here: SIGN UP

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