In addition to making sure your children are wearing bike helmets, the second major area of concern with cycling is road safety. Most experts agree that children shouldn’t be riding in traffic until, developmentally, they can handle such a complex task. Until a child hits about 12 years old, they’re not mentally capable of judging speed and distance to be able to be let out in traffic by themselves. But don’t let the warning against traffic lead you to assume that the sidewalk is completely safe. Serious collisions with motor vehicles can occur even on sidewalks.
• Check the law in your jurisdiction to make sure sidewalk riding is allowed.
• Watch for vehicles coming out of or turning into driveways.
• Stop at corners of sidewalks and streets to look for cars and to make sure the drivers see you before crossing.
• Enter a street at a corner and not between parked cars. Alert pedestrians that you are near by saying, “Excuse me,” or, “Passing on your left,” or use a bell or horn.
• And, most importantly, stay with your children while they are riding, on the sidewalk or in the roadway.
If you don’t feel comfortable enough with your kids to let them out on the road unattended, then they shouldn’t be riding unattended on the sidewalk, either. Every study done shows that riding on the sidewalk is two and a half times more dangerous than riding on the road. So, children under 12 should be supervised when they’re on their bikes, preferably riding on quiet side streets with minimum amount of traffic.
Biking is a great activity. But, as a bicycle accident attorney, I know that in order to prevent bicycle accidents parents must be vigilant. So, supervise children, have them take lessons in road safety, wear helmets, and ride only on roadways appropriate for their age and capabilities.