How to Keep Kids Safe on Bikes

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 21, 2022
4 min read

Bike riding can be a lot of fun on a beautiful day, but accidents happen. Many children visit the emergency room with bike injuries every year. 

Besides bike safety equipment, using your bike only when you need to — and not just for fun — is one way to stay safe with bikes. However, that is not your only option!

Helmets. You should always make sure your child wears a helmet when riding a bike. Bike accidents can cause serious head injuries. Helmets help protect against head injuries that can be life-threatening. Having a helmet on can reduce the risk of serious head injury by up to 85 percent.

It's crucial to remember that it's not about putting on just any helmet. The helmet should also be the right size and fit well. A helmet that fits well is the most effective in protecting the head, face, and brain.

You should only use a helmet made for biking. Never let your teen ride using a sports helmet (i.e a football helmet) or a hard hat when going for a ride. This is because the bike helmet is best designed for bike accidents that involve headfirst falls. 

Your child’s helmet should meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standards. Make sure it has a CPSC or Snell sticker inside.

Try following these helmet tips:

  • Replace the helmet after an accident.
  • Avoid wearing a helmet on top of a hat.
  • Put reflective stickers on the helmet to stay visible to other road users.
  • Avoid damaging the helmet by doing things like throwing it around.
  • Put on a helmet in the right way. Make sure it doesn’t tip back. It should also cover the forehead.

Proper clothing. Making sure that your kid wears proper bike riding clothes can go a long way in keeping them safe. Always have them put on bright clothing when going for a bike ride. This makes them more visible to other road users. They should not wear loose clothing that might get stuck in the bike’s chain or other parts. Clothing should also have long sleeves to protect riders from road rash in case they fall off the bike. 

Never forget to make sure your kid wears proper shoes while biking. Closed shoes will help protect your child’s feet from toe loss or injury. Always avoid flip-flops or shoes with heels while riding a bike.

The right bike. When getting a bike for your kid, get one that is the right size and matches your kid’s or teen’s riding style and skill level. Avoid getting a bigger bike for your child to grow into. When finding the right size, make sure your kid can sit with their feet comfortably on the ground. Also, the bike's handlebars should not go above their shoulder level.

Safety checks. You should always do safety checks before letting your child go bike riding. Safety checks involve checking if wheels and handlebars are well adjusted and not falling apart. Fix any loose parts, brakes, chains, and deflated tires. Getting the bike checked and fixed will go a long way in preventing accidents.

Supervision. When kids are involved in bike riding, proper supervision is vital. Always prepare your child for their bike riding session by providing proper equipment and training them. If they are old enough (over 10) to ride on the road, make sure they understand and follow road rules. Also, set rules establishing how far or where they can and can't ride. Teach your child to respect other road users and to be aware of their surroundings.

The most common bike injuries include:

Head injury. As seen earlier, head injuries are some of the most common injuries from bike accidents. A head injury may range from a cut on the face to a serious brain injury. Helmets are effective in preventing head injuries, typically. They are available in stores and are quite affordable.

Wrist or forearm injury. Wrist injuries may occur due to overuse or hitting bumps in the road. Common wrist injuries from bike riding are cyclist’s palsy and carpal tunnel syndrome. These can be prevented by proper hand positioning when riding. Also, consider wearing padded gloves and stretching your hands and wrists before going for a bike ride.

Knee injury. Knee injuries are the most common injuries caused by overuse when cycling. Examples of knee injuries include cyclist’s knee (Patellofemoral syndrome), medial plica syndrome, jumper’s knee (patella and quadriceps tendonitis), and iliotibial band syndrome. Overuse knee injuries can be prevented using shoe implants, cleat positions, and wedges under cycling shoes.

Neck and back injuries. Neck and back injury mostly comes from riding in one position for too long. The most common symptom is pain. You can avoid this by doing neck stretches and shoulder shrugs regularly to make you flexible and maintain proper form.

Foot tingling and numbness. Feeling a tingle and numbness may be caused by things like tight or narrow cycling shoes and exertional compartment syndrome. It occurs when nerves in your lower leg are compressed by increased pressure. This pressure can be released by surgery (surgical release).

Urogenital issues. These issues affect males that ride for long periods of time. A common urogenital condition is pudendal neuropathy, which occurs due to compression in the genital area. It causes pain or numbness. You can prevent urogenital issues by replacing your bike’s seat with a wider one with padding to relieve pressure.

Besides the helmet, other bike safety equipment includes:

  • Gloves
  • Mirrors
  • Lights
  • Flags
  • Mouthguards
  • Reflective material

You should teach your child about bike safety rules before letting them ride on the road alone. Consider riding with them first while teaching them the rules. 

Some bike safety rules you can teach your kid include:

  • Use hand signals.
  • Stop at stop signs and obey traffic lights.
  • Always stay on the right side of the road. Never face the traffic.
  • Before crossing the road, always look left, right, and left again.