When biking with children, choose a safe route and use the ride as a chance to teach traffic skills.
Many parents contact us with concerns about whether it’s safe for their children to bike in traffic. This is a tough question. If there is a good route to your destination that avoids busy, high-traffic roads, and if the child can steadily handle a bike on his/her own, riding in a straight line, and making smooth starts and stops, then the answer is a qualified yes.
Assuming the above conditions are met, ride with your child in the street and use the riding as an opportunity to teach traffic skills. At a minimum, this would mean teaching her or him what the traffic laws are and how they pertain to bikes:
- Make sure she understands concepts like "yielding" and "right of way" and how to apply them.
- Watch what he’s doing at intersections, making sure that he scans in each direction and stops/yields as appropriate. Even at green lights, where you may have the right of way, it’s still important to scan for red-light runners or unpredictable drivers.
- Teach her how to use hand signals to communicate turns and stops to drivers and other cyclists.
- Teach him how to ride at least 3-4 feet away from parked cars to avoid dooring.
Basically, you would be teaching him defensive driving well before he’s old enough to drive a car. Cyclists of all ages can use this information, and they become safer and more confident when they cycle in that manner. More information for kids is available in our Bike Driver’s Ed class. Adults and mature teens may take Savvy Cyclist: Traffic Skills 101.
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