A commonly overlooked group of cyclists in community safety talks is children, as we generally don’t anticipate children riding alone on major roads. Children, however, are the group of cyclists most in danger of sustaining serious injury while riding. More than 70% of children ages 5-14 ride bikes in the United States. Each year more than 362,000 children under the age of 14 are injured, and 200 are killed in bicycle related accidents.
When we create action plans for adult bicycle safety, it is easy to overlook our neighborhood roads as we feel comfortable in these areas and are not inclined to feel a bike lane marking is necessary. For children, nearly 60% of all bicycle-related deaths occur on minor roads – generally within one mile of their home. Education is the key to preventing these injuries, by teaching children predictable riding; stopping at stop signs, ride with traffic and ride straight.
What can you do to help promote helmet safety? Start at home, and make sure your children, and their friends, all wear helmets. The best child helmets are light and ventilated, with impact protection equal to adult helmets and more coverage in the rear required by the CPSC standard. For kids over 5, a small adult helmet works fine. There are no tiny helmets available because it’s not recommended to ride with a child under one year old, as their neck structure and brain are just not ready yet. If in doubt, take the helmet and child to a pediatrician and ask.
If everyone does their part, we can make a significant impact on avoidable injuries or even death to our most vulnerable cycling enthusiasts.