Bike safety is important for people of all ages. Keeping your child safe while cycling involves teaching them riding skills and giving them the right equipment, including a helmet. Teach your child how to use their bike and safety equipment properly and give them lots of supervised practice.
Bike riding can be fun for the whole family, but it needs to be enjoyed safely. Bicycle safety involves developing riding skills, wearing the right protective gear and looking after your bike. Parents should teach their children about cycling safety and caring for their bike.
To help your child become a safe cyclist, let them have lots of practice on safe paths while offering tips on bike handling. Children need to develop the skills to be able to ride in a straight line, brake properly and corner safely.
Ride in designated areas such as bike paths when possible. By law, children can ride on the footpath up to the age of 12. Cyclists aged 12 years or over can ride on the footpath if they are accompanying a child under 12 years of age. Find out if your child’s school offers bike education, which teaches children about road safety and cycling skills.
Helmets are compulsory
Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 60 to 90 per cent. It is compulsory to wear a helmet when riding a bike in Victoria. This law applies when riding on roads and road-related areas like bike paths, bike lanes, shared and separated footpaths. Tricycles (with a pedal and chain) are considered bicycles under the road rules.
Your child’s helmet should be:
- Approved – make sure the helmet carries the Standards Australia mark.
- The right size and fitted correctly – the helmet should be comfortable and not too tight or loose. Caps should not be worn under helmets as they ruin the fit – your child can wear a visor over the helmet to protect them from the sun. Choose a helmet that is not too heavy and provides good ventilation.
- Positioned on the head properly – the helmet should sit level on the head, covering the forehead with the rim just above the eyebrows. The straps should be correctly adjusted and the buckle securely fastened. The straps should form a ‘V’ shape with the plastic strap guide sitting just under the earlobe. The buckle should be close up under your child’s chin.
- Kept in good condition – A helmet is designed to protect your head in one impact only. If your child has had a bicycle accident that involved the helmet or the helmet has been dropped from a height, you must replace it even if there is no visible damage. Don’t leave a helmet exposed to direct sunlight when not in use, make sure the foam is not old and crumbling, and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Choosing a bike that suits the rider
Having the right size bike for your body plays a big part in safe cycling. A bike that’s too big for your child is dangerous – kids don’t ‘grow into’ bikes or helmets. To test for size, stand your child over the bicycle with both feet on the ground. For medium or lightweight bikes, there should be at least 2cm between the crotch and the crossbar (or where the crossbar would be if the bike had one). For BMX and mountain bikes, there should be at least 5cm between the crotch and crossbar.
Make sure all controls are within easy reach and comfortable to use, and that the seat can be adjusted. If you buy a second-hand bike, make sure that it is serviced properly.
Using bicycle seats for children
Bicycle seats for children are becoming popular. To be safe, you need to:
- Choose a seat with moulded leg supports (to protect the child’s feet from spokes), head and neck support, feet straps and spoke shields).
- Make sure it has a harness that is fitted securely each time you place the child in the seat.
- Ride for short periods only, especially in hot weather. Use sunscreen and a hat for your child and take plenty of drinks.
- Use seats only for children who are over 12 months of age and weigh less than 22kg.
- Children in bicycle seats must wear a helmet.
Caring for your bike
You need to make sure that your bike and your child’s bike are well maintained. Regularly check brakes, wheels, pedals, bearings and chains so that the bike will stop quickly in an emergency. Each time you ride the bike, check if the tyres are hard, if the brakes work and whether there are any rattles. Check the tyres, bearings, gears, nuts and bolts, and lubricate the chain and cables each week. See a professional bicycle repairer if you are unsure about the bike’s safety.
Where to get help
- The Royal Children’s Hospital, Safety Centre Tel. (03) 9345 5085
- Bicycle Network Victoria Tel. (03) 8636 8888 or 1800 639 634
Things to remember
- In Victoria, it is compulsory to wear helmets while riding.
- Make sure you choose the right helmet for your child and that it is worn properly.
- Regularly check the bike for safety.
- Give your child lots of riding practice and teach them riding skills.
- Make sure the bike is the right size for your child – a bike that is too big or small can be dangerous.
You might also be interested in:
- Child safety - at home.
- Child safety - children and animals.
- Child safety - children and road safety.
- Child safety - hot weather.
- Child safety - playground equipment.
- Child safety - reducing injuries.
- Child safety in the car.
- Cycling - preventing injury.
Want to know more?
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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
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Royal Children's Hospital
Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: January 2012
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