Are the kids ready to burn dust? Before they start hot-wheeling it around town, those BMX bandits will need to learn these five kids’ bike safety rules.
Do you remember the first time you got on a bike? I do. I was five. It was Christmas day and somehow Santa managed to fit a bike twice my size into his sack, complete with a floral basket at the front. It was scarily big. Dad and I wheeled it out the front of our house, then, on our dirty, rocky road, I got on it. Then I fell straight off. No helmet and no soft landing. But lots of ‘ouches’!
A lot has changed since then. Now, it’s normal for families to raise kids in the city – with traffic at every corner. And sadly, between 2011 and 2015, a massive 3149 kids aged 5 to 12 were injured on NSW roads and 37 were killed. Worse, the number of accidents on NSW roads increased this year.
It’s because of these frightening statistics that Transport for New South Wales has teamed up with The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation to launch a free, interactive website, Safety Town, to teach kids and families vital road safety skills. And to lure the kids, it will be chockers with fun activities that deliver important safety messages.
“Bike riding is incredibly exciting for children, and it’s often one of their first interactions with the traffic environment,” explains Aaron Jones, Research & Media Officer for The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation. “Safety Town provides a great opportunity for children to develop their road safety skills and learn about how to be a responsible road user. Along with teaching them about pedestrian safety, it’s incredibly important to teach children about ‘wheels’ safety, so that when they ride their bikes, scooters and skateboards, they understand how they are expected to behave in order to stay safe.”
Here, Aaron and The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation, explain the five kids’ bike safety rules every parent should teach …
Rule 1. Ride with an adult
While the kids may be having a wheelie fun time, it’s important they stay close to adults. “Children can be incredibly unpredictable near the road and can get too caught up in the excitement of riding their bike to safely navigate the traffic environment by themselves,” says Aaron. “Roadways are complex systems and change from one minute to the next.
“Riding with your children provides the perfect opportunity to explain different roadway signs and exemplify best-practice roadway behaviour for them to model.
“Children, particularly those under 12, should be accompanied and closely supervised by an adult around roadways whether they are on foot or on wheels.”
Rule 2. Use the footpath or try a local bike path
Practice makes perfect, but not on roads. “The safest place for children to ride their bike is a fenced cycling track or the backyard,” suggests Aaron. “Children should be discouraged from riding their bike in car parks, driveways and on the road.
“Riding their bike on the road can be dangerous for children for a number of reasons. Children can be incredibly unpredictable in the traffic environment and are more difficult for drivers to see due to their size.”
Tip: “Plan your route before leaving the house and pick quieter streets, bike lanes and shared paths to get to your destination where possible,” Aaron says. “When riding on the footpath, ensure your children keep left and always give way to pedestrians.”
You can find a load of info about the different state’s laws for parents riding with their children on footpaths here.
Related: Why It’s Good For Kids To Play Dirty
Rule 3. Clip your helmet before leaving the house
Not the biggest fashion statement, but it will protect their little heads. And it’s a non-negotiable. “Research tells us that helmets can reduce head injuries in accidents with motor vehicles by as much as 74%,” explains Aaron.
“The law stipulates that children must be wearing a helmet when riding their bike in public spaces. Teach them about the importance of helmet-wearing from a young age in their home environment to encourage this potentially lifesaving habit.”
Aaron says it’s also pivotal to ensure the helmet fits correctly. “Children need to wear a properly-adjusted helmet that complies with national regulatory standards,” he says. “The helmet should not cover their eyes and ears, in order to keep these senses fully alert. Adjustable helmets are recommended to get the maximum use out of it for your child. When you purchase a new helmet, you’ll notice a standard-approved sticker on the box.” Read it. For the different accreditation and more information on fitting your child’s helmet, click here.
Rule 4. Be seen
What they lack in stature, they make up for in personality. But all that cheek and fun won’t keep them safe on the roads. “Children can be difficult to see by other road users,” says Aaron. “Encouraging them to wear bright, colourful clothes and attaching reflectors to their bike makes them stand out to other road users. When purchasing a helmet, we recommend choosing bright colours.”
Rule 5. Watch for moving cars driving in and out of driveways.
Driveways are a pain in the butt. Not only do they slow the ride down, but they’re tricky to see – and dangerous. “While vehicles in driveways are generally travelling at low speeds, they can still be incredibly dangerous,” says Aaron. “Every week a child is either killed or seriously injured in a driveway accident in Australia.
“Teaching your children to stop before each driveway is equally as important when they are on wheels as it is when they are pedestrians. Encourage them to stop and look down the driveway to see if a car is reversing before they cycle across to the other side.
“Children are small and can be hidden from the driver’s view by bushes, fences or the vehicle’s blind spot.”
ABOUT The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation
David and Michelle McLaughlin become avid road safety campaigners and founded The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation in honour of their beloved son, Thomas McLaughlin, whose life was cut devastatingly short in 2014. One minute, he was an excited four-year-old on holiday with his family on the NSW Central Coast. A minute later, with his grandparents just a few metres away, he was accidentally killed after excitedly stepping into the path of an oncoming vehicle. David and Michelle have thrown their support behind the launch of Safety Town and have helped create one of the activities on the website.
For holiday safety, Out and About with Sophie and Tom – Safe Holiday Adventures focuses on different road environments children and their families could encounter when they go on holidays, allowing children to explore settings such as the beach, country and snow.