The sun is shining, the weather is getting warmer and summertime is just around the corner, which means it’s time for kids to get out their bikes and start riding. There are tons of benefits to riding a bike, especially for kids with a disability. First of all, riding a bike is fun! It offers freedom from everyday limitations, creates opportunities to socialize with peers, provides an alternate form of transportation that can be used throughout the life span and, of course, it’s a great form of exercise. So, who wouldn’t want to ride a bike?
Millions of Americans ride bikes, but did you know that more kids between the ages of 5 and 14 are seen in the emergency room due to bicycle accidents than any other sport? In 2010, there were 515,000 bicycle-related injuries in the United States. Half of those injuries were to youth under the age of 20, and of those 26,000 resulted in traumatic brain injuries.
Helmets can reduce your child’s risk of brain injury by 88 percent, so let’s talk about some bike safety.
First: ALWAYS wear a helmet. It is important to know that you have the right type of helmet and that it fits properly. Seattle Children's Hospital created a great resource to help.
A bike helmet fits well if:
- It sits level on the head
- Isn’t tilted one direction or the other
- Has strong, wide straps that fasten well under the chin
- Is tight enough that no sudden pulling or twisting can move it
If you have trouble getting your child to wear a helmet, here are a few suggestions. First, be sure you are wearing a helmet, too. Role models are always important. Also, let the child pick out his or her own helmet. The cooler they think it is, the more likely they will be to wear it. And finally, let them decorate their helmet any way they want. They could use stickers or spray paint. The key is, if it helps them wear it then it’s worth it.
Second: Be sure to follow the rules of the road. For example, you should always ride on the right side of the road with the flow of traffic, and NEVER against traffic. Obey traffic signs and signals and use correct hand signals. Look before crossing a street.
Third: Be bright, use light. This is especially important when riding at dawn or dusk, as you want to be sure that cars can see you. You should wear brightly colored clothing and have reflectors as well. Your bike should also be equipped with a front headlight and a rear reflector or flashing red light.
For some fun kid activities on bike safety, check out this resource from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This month is Bike Safety Month and your child’s school may be hosting or participating in a Walk or Bike to School Day or a bicycle rodeo. These events help raise bike safety awareness, as well as provide positive experiences that may encourage biking throughout the lifespan. Visit the Walk Bike to School website for more information. If you are worried that your child may be unable to be involved, you should know that there are many ways to include kids with disability that are fun and enjoyable for all. For more information read these articles:
- Access for All Students
- Safe Routes to School: A Great Way to Get Youth with and without Disabilities More Active
- Walk to School Day Celebrates National Efforts to Promote More Walkable (Wheelable), Active Communities
Finally, maybe you’re thinking this is all fine and dandy, but you didn’t even think your child could ride a bike. There are a wide variety of adapted options currently available so that biking can be enjoyed by almost everyone. There are handcycles, trikes, recumbents and more. Just do a quick Google search on “adapted bikes” and there will be hundreds of options at your fingertips. Some organizations, like AMBUCS, will even provide bike demonstrations.