Military News

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Keeping Minot AFB Children Safe: Bicycle Safety

by Jennifer Greene
Minot State University

10/13/2015 - MINOT STATE UNIVERSITY, N.D. -- With summer coming to a close, and fall quickly on its heels, community sidewalks have become full of children biking to and from school.  Safety becomes an important factor for everyone to consider with many children on the roads and sidewalks.

· Have you included a helmet as an essential component when riding a bicycle?  Even though most base regulations require everyone riding a bike on base to wear a helmet, it is just as important to ensure your child's helmet is the right size to prevent a traumatic brain or head injury in the event of an accident.

· Have you discussed the importance of bike safety with your child and the rules of the road or implemented a pre-ride checklist that ensures your child's equipment is in good working order?  Discussing these issues and preparing your children for safe bike riding can prevent accidents, and allow your children to arrive safely to our base schools.

Research by "Bicycle Safety N.D." shows the biggest protection from head injury is a properly fitted helmet, and parents should follow these guidelines when purchasing a helmet for their child.

· It should neither be too big or too small, and the helmet should fit low on the child's forehead, with two finger spacing above the child's brow line.

· The child should be able to look up and see their helmet.  If they are unable to visualize the helmet, it is too far back on their head and will not provide the protection they need.

Another important factor to consider is the size of the child's bike.  To do so, you should have the child stand over their bike.

· There should be 1 to 2 inches between you and the top bar if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if a mountain bicycle.

· The seat should be level front to back.

· The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended.

· The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.

Once you have properly fitted your child's helmet and bike, the child should first practice riding the bike and mastering bike riding skills under the supervision of a responsible party.  When skills, such as riding in a straight line and stopping appropriately mastered, and looking over their shoulders and signaling to vehicles under their belt, they are less likely to crash.

Prior to every ride, children should be able to check tire inflation, eyeball chain placement, and ensure that brakes are working properly.

Finally, children need to be aware of the rules of the road, as most bicycle accidents are caused by the bicyclist's behavior. Bicycling is safest when riding on streets, however, bicyclists are expected to follow the same regulations as motorized vehicles and should obey all traffic laws and follow direction of street signs.

Bicyclists should ride predictably, in a straight line, avoid darting across roads, and ride with the flow of traffic.  It is important to stay alert at all times, signal to motorized vehicles when turning, and be aware of parked cars.

It is not recommended for children to wear headphones or use other devices while riding a bicycle which can cause distraction.  Both hands should be firmly placed upon both handle bars.  Books and school supplies should be secured in a backpack, so both hands are free.

Children under the age of 10 should ride on sidewalks where available, as they are not developmentally prepared to ride in traffic.  Children should be aware of vehicles backing out of driveways, stop at all intersections and look both ways before crossing; they should walk their bikes across the intersection.

When children are passing pedestrians, they should say "excuse me" or "on your left" to alert others of their presence.

Bicycling can be a great form of exercise for our children and provide them with a valuable sense of independence, but children should be reminded that bicycles are a vehicle and not a toy.

Prevention and protection are key factors, and all parents should discuss safe behaviors with their child, model these behaviors, and enforce them, so they become habits from an early age.

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