Kids and bikes go hand and hand and with the warmer weather upon us us, it is an ideal time to dust off your child’s bike to see if it still fits. But how do you know if your child has outgrown his or her bicycle?
A bicycle is the right size when there is a minimum of two centimetres of clearance between a person’s groin and the bike’s crossbar, according to an annual safe cycling guide produced by Quebec’s Automobile Insurance Agency and Transport Quebec.
The measurement should be taken while the rider straddles the bike, with both feet flat on the ground. The bike’s handlebars should be even with the seat height, and the seat should be parallel and not tilted up or down.
According to a guide issued by retailer Canadian Tire, another way to determine the correct size of a bike is for parents to measure the inseam of their child’s pants (the distance from groin to foot). A child whose pants have an inseam of less than 16 inches will need a bike with 12-inch wheels, while a child with a 26-inch inseam would do well with a bike that has 20-inch wheels.
Though it’s tempting to “buy big” in order to get a few more years use out of a new bicycle, it’s generally not a good idea. A bike frame that is too large can result in a loss of balance, which can often lead to accidents.
All about helmets
Quebec’s bike safety booklet notes that 60 per cent of head injuries are caused by bicycle accidents. Research has consistently shown that helmet use prevents serious injury.
But getting kids, especially teens, to wear them can be a challenge. Experts suggest taking kids along when buying helmets, not only to ensure a proper fit, but also to let them chose styles they’re likely to wear. Make sure the helmet you purchase has a sticker bearing the CSA, CPSC, ASTM, CEN or SNELL symbols, which meet North American safety standards.
Don’t buy a helmet without having the rider try it on first to make sure that weight, padding and adjustment straps are good for the shape of the head. A properly fitted helmet means the front and back straps join together just under the rider’s ear, while the chin strap is snug, but not too tight. The helmet should sit low on the forehead (just above the eyebrows) and not move from side to side, or slide forward and backward.
Experts advise that kids under 9 should always ride with adults. Research has shown that children under this age do not have the necessary motor and reasoning skills needed to ride alone safely.
- For a left turn, extend the left arm straight out like the wing of an airplane.
- To make a right turn, put the left arm straight out but bend it upward at the elbow (it should be an L shape).
- To signal a pending stop, extend the left arm straight down by the leg, with a flat palm.
Other safety tips:
- Walk your bike down a driveway before mounting
- Check over your left shoulder before changing lanes
- Use bike lanes when possible
- Ride in single file when travelling in groups
- Ride with the flow of traffic on the far right side of the road
- Always ride astride the bicycle with both hands on the handlebars
Riding at night
According to provincial numbers, 29 per cent of fatal cycling accidents occur in the evening. Though it’s best not to ride at night, those who do should have white mounted bicycle headlights and red rear lights, as well as bicycle reflectors. Light coloured clothing with reflective strips should also be worn.
The rules of the road
Cyclists have to abide by the rules of the road in the same way as drivers of vehicles. So if a licensed driver – a teen for example – got a ticket for running a stop sign on a bicycle they would lose demerit points from their driver’s license. Cyclists who don’t have a license would nevertheless be ticketed.
Other infractions cyclists should be aware of:
- Failing to stop at red lights or stop signs: $15 to $30, + three demerit points
- Riding while wearing earphones or headsets: $30 to $60 fines
- Not using bicycle lanes on public roads: $15 to $30
- Riding on sidewalks: $15 to $30
- Riding without holding onto handlebars: $15 to $30
- Turning right at red lights where signs prohibit: $15 to $30 + three demerit points
- Riding two on a single seat bike: $15 to $30
- Not obeying road signs $15 to $30
- Drinking alcohol while riding: $15 to $30
- Failing to ride in single file: $15 to $30
- Not signalling turns or stops: $15 to $30
- Riding against the flow of traffic: $15 to $30
- Riding on the roadway other than on the far right: $15 to $30
- Not yielding the right of way at an intersection to users who have priority: $15 to $30 + demerit points.