Want your kids to learn how to ride bikes safely? Show them.
Riding with your child is the best way to instill safe habits and rules. “Keep up a running commentary,” advises Morgan Scherer, executive director of the nonprofit Familybike Seattle. “When you’re going to signal, slow down or make any sort of judgment call, make sure you explain why you’re doing so. Talk through every process with your child.”
“Emphasize to your children that they need to be as visible as possible and remain keenly aware of the cars,” says Elizabeth Kiker, the Cascade Bicycle Club’s executive director. Instill in them that they must stay to the right and yield to cars (yes, even when drivers are in the wrong).
While the sidewalk may initially sound like the safest option for a young biker, that’s not always the case, Scherer says. Although very young children who are new to biking should typically ride on the sidewalk, the street is often the safer option once your child is a quicker and more confident cyclist, she says. Streets are designed for high speeds, while sidewalks carry the risk of colliding with slower-moving pedestrians or cars going into driveways.
When it comes to our wee ones, local experts agree that bike trailers and bike seats are equally safe ways to cart around tots, so it’s purely a matter of preference. Some kids love having their own space in a trailer, while bike seats are a better option for children who like to be closer to their parents.
And of course, never forget the basics — make sure your child always wears a helmet, has a functioning light on their bicycle and knows to obey the law at all times.
Cascade Bicycle Club has teamed up with 14 local school districts to bring their bike fun and safety education program into the schools to teach elementary students basic safety rules for city riding.
The City of Seattle also recently updated its Bicycle Master Plan to improve safety and accessibility and has developed a Safe Routes to Schools program to encourage kids to walk and bike to school.