Now that the weather is warming, my children are outside from the time they get home from school until the time they are getting ready for bed.
Learning to ride a bike was a huge milestone for them and it is one of their favorite spring and summer activities. My 3-year-old son uses training wheels when he rides, while my 8-year-old daughter flies on her two-wheeler.
While their bikes may be different, they still follow the same bicycle safety rules.
In honor of National Bike Month here are five basic rules for the bike riders in your house -- no matter how old they are -- from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
1. Get the right helmet
No, your child can't wear a football helmet while riding a bike. A bicycle helmet is a special helmet made just for bicycles. They are specifically made to help with falls and crashes that can occur while riding a bike. Never use another kind of helmet while riding a bike -- they won’t offer the same protection a bicycle helmet does.
2. Always wear that helmet!
Speaking of helmets -- they ALWAYS need to be worn, even on short little rides in your driveway. A fall can happen anywhere and the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that the majority happen near home. Develop that good habit of wearing a helmet as soon as your kiddo starts riding a trike so they learn the safety rules when they move into a regular bicycle.
3. Make sure the bike fits
You might be tempted to buy a bike that's "the next size up" for your always-growing child. But the right size bike is important. It takes coordination and skills your child hasn't yet developed to ride a bike that's too big or too small, which means it's easy to lose control. How do you know if it's the right size? Your child should be able to sit fully on the seat and hold the handlebars with both hands while the balls of their feet touch the ground. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics says a child's first bike should be equipped with foot brakes.
4. Children 10 and under should ride on the sidewalk
While bike riders, in general, are discouraged from riding bikes on a sidewalk, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says kids 10 and under are an exception to that rule. The reasoning? "Children less than 10 years old, however, are not mature enough to make the decisions necessary to safely ride in the street," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration writes.
But the government organization also notes you should check with your local laws first -- it's not legal in some places for people of any age to ride bikes on sidewalks. Also, make sure you teach your kids how to be safe when riding on a sidewalk -- or anywhere: watch out for cars turning into or out of driveways, stop at every corner to look for cars, look for road hazards, and alert pedestrians of your presence.
5. Be seen!
When riding a bike, wear bright clothes! Neon and fluorescent colors are best, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says. The agency also recommends wearing something that reflects or gives off light -- such as reflective tape or flashing lights.
"Remember, just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean the driver can see you," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns.
A few common-sense precautions like these can go a long way to making sure your family will enjoy safe and fun bike rides. I hope you and your kids enjoy your summer on two wheels!
Nicole Zawidski is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Bethlehem, Pa.