by Erick Wikum
As I waited in the car for my wife to emerge from the big box store, I noticed a man returning to his vehicle carrying a tiny bicycle, no doubt meant as a gift for his grandchild. I imagined the delight on the child’s face when the new bicycle was revealed and the child’s headlong rush to try it out right away. A bicycle is indeed a wonderful gift for a child, but equally wonderful is sound advice for riding safely. Whether you’re a parent or a grandparent, you can lay the foundation for a child to enjoy cycling safely by sharing a few tips including the following.
1. Always (ALWAYS) wear a helmet: Ensure your child wears a cool enough helmet when riding. To function as intended, a helmet must be correctly sized and adjusted and worn properly to cover the forehead. Set a positive example by wearing a helmet yourself.
2. Master requisite skills: Find a safe place to practice skills including (a) traveling in a straight line, (b) stopping on a line, (c) turning and (d) glancing behind while maintaining a straight line.
3. Navigate the environment: Slowly introduce children to more complex situations as appropriate based on age, experience and skill level. Demonstrate rules of the road including travelling on the right-hand-side, showing intent using hand signals (left turn, right turn or stop) and coming to a complete stop at intersections. Stress the importance of focusing on the task at hand and maintaining awareness using both eyes and ears. Teach children to expect the unexpected, including cars emerging from driveways and doors opening on parked cars.
With its smooth, flat surface and lack of motorized traffic, the Little Miami Scenic Trail is a great venue for children to ride bikes. When riding on the trail, children (and for that matter older bicyclists) should stay to the right side of the trail and should move off of the trail when stopped. Children who might stray into the path of other trail users pose a danger for themselves and others and should be carefully supervised. Avoiding intersections and using the trail during off peak times can make for a more enjoyable and safe riding experience for kids and adults as well.
Teach a child to ride a bicycle and he or she will receive satisfaction for a day. Teach a child to ride safely and the child may well embark on the rolling journey of a lifetime.
Editor’s Note: Friends of the Little Miami State Park will offer a free children’s helmet giveaway on June 27 from 10 am to 2 pm at Nesbit Park in Loveland.