Submitted by Carrie Brazeal
Spring is definitely here! I love this warm weather. I want to stay outdoors even when I need to be indoors. With the warm weather, lots of people are spending more time outdoors. I have seen an increase of people riding bicycles, which is wonderful. I was at a local park over the weekend and I couldn’t believe how many children as well as adults were riding bikes. Bicycle riding is a great physical activity for the entire family. Just make sure that this is a safe activity for your family.
In the market for a new bike? When selecting bikes for children, make sure to focus on your child’s age, maturity level and the riding environment. Before making any purchase, be sure that the child is in the age range recommended for the cycling gear. The first thing to look for when buying a bike for a child is the right fit so take your child with you when you shop. A bike is the right size when your child can sit on the seat with feet flat on the ground. The handlebars should be no higher than the shoulders. Don’t buy a bike that’s too big, assuming that your child will grow into it. An oversized bike is dangerous and could lead to injury.
Bikes for younger kids (about age 7 or under) should have coaster (or foot) brakes, not hand brakes. Bikes for kids older than 7 should have foot and hand brakes. That way, kids can get used to using hand brakes before graduating to bigger bikes that only have hand brakes. If you’re buying training wheels, make sure that they can be adjusted as riding skills improve. Remember that children grow and they may outgrow their bike. When a bike is too small, kids have to stand up on the pedals. They can’t balance as well or get in a position to ride it safely.
What about helmets? As a parent, I always made sure my kids wore a helmet, no matter what. Many bike accidents involve an injury to the head and a crash could mean permanent brain damage or death for a person who doesn’t wear one while riding. Of course, this also means that we as parents also need to wear a helmet. You have to be a good role model! Here are a few tips about purchasing helmets for both you and your child:
*Look inside the helmet for either a CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) or Snell sticker. Only buy a helmet that is approved by either of these two safety organization.
*A helmet should sit level and firmly, but comfortably, on your head and not be tilted forward, backward or sideways. It should have strong, wide straps that form a “Y” just under the ear and fasten snugly under the chin. When you open your mouth, the helmet should pull down a bit.
*Helmets should be tight enough (with straps fastened) that sudden pulling or twisting does not cause the helmet to move around on your head.Helmets should always be fastened while you are riding and never be worn over a bandana, baseball cap or anything else that could cause it to shift in a crash. After taking a serious hit, helmets lose their capacity to absorb shock. If you or your child ever have a fall and hit any surface hard with the helmet, immediately replace it.
Having a bike that’s safe and a good fit along with a helmet that’s worn properly helps kids of all ages develop a love of bicycling that can last for life.
For more information about purchasing bicycles or helmets as well as safety rules, go to http://kidshelath.org.
Enjoy this wonderful spring weather!
Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences for Texas AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 982.548.4233 or metro 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.