The winter months are looming in the not-so-distant future. Before long, freezing temperatures and icy precipitation will trap you and your children inside. In preparation of that horror, you are sending your kids outside as often as possible, suggesting every activity that comes to mind. One of the more common is biking. What could be better? It not only pushes them out the door but provides them with health-boosting exercise. If you go with them, it’s fitness for the whole family! But, before you go pedaling crazy, remember that cycling is not without its dangers.
Every year, more than 10,000 children and adolescents are hospitalized for bike-related accidents, remaining in the hospital, on average, for three days. And we aren’t talking minor bumps and bruises here. Thirty-three percent of the injuries are traumatic brain injuries, which can easily lead to serious health complications and even death. In fact, biking is three to four times more deadly than walking (in the United Kingdom at least). So, taking the proper precautions is more than necessary when sending your children on a two-wheel expedition. Here are a few tips to help get them on their way and bring them back.
• Dress them appropriately – I’ve ridden my bike home from the beach with a towel wrapped around my waist. I’ve also gotten that towel tangled in the wheels, causing me to tip dangerously. While that’s probably not a possibility during the current season, shoelaces, dangling chains, strips of frayed jeans and tons of other clothing accessories can easily elicit a fall.
• Glue the helmets to their heads – it may not be cool but a helmet can reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury by 85 percent. Make sure that it sits flat on their heads and covers their foreheads. Adjust the straps so that the helmet cannot slip and slide.
• Alert them to common accident causes – it’s fall. Leaves have drifted down to the ground, littering the sidewalks and streets. Hitting a badly placed patch, particularly a wet one, can connect any biker with the pavement. Puddles, gravel, rocks, storm grates, curbs and other people are also skid-inducing.
• Tell them to slow down – it’s fun to go as fast as possible. The wind whips at your face and you feel like you’re flying. Then you hit a bump and you flip over the handlebars. Slowing down to moderately-fast rather than lightning-quick is considerably more advisable than having the doctor on speed dial.
• Remind them that other, bigger vehicles share the roadway – bike-car accidents are far more common that you would think. While it’s important that the more powerful machine pay attention, it can’t solely be the driver’s responsibility. Cyclists should consciously avoid automobiles. If your kids are not sure how to do that, bicyclesafe.com has ten ways to avoid getting hit by a car.