I have 3 very young children who are constantly out on their bicycles. Thankfully we have instilled in them to always wear a helmet. As an Ontario personal injury lawyer, I meet regularly with Ottawa cycling accident victims who have suffered serious personal injuries such as a head injury, brain injury and I often meet with family members who have lost a family member, because he or she was hit while riding a bicycle and died. It’s hard to remember but we all need to be reminded that a bicycle is a motor vehicle and that cyclists need to follow the same rules as other motor vehicle. As an Ottawa bicycle accident lawyer, I feel this is especially important to teach our kids at a young age. For now, yes they are always close by on their bicycles, but before we know it,they will be biking to school, to a friend’s house,to the pool and we won’t be there to remind of the rules of cycling safety. Let’s teach them now !!
As adults, we take for granted that our kids know how traffic works and what safety signs mean. Practice, review and years of experience with adult supervision will help reinforce these lessons. Most importantly, lead by example. I’m constantly amazed and what my children do and say and realize that they are copying me and what I do and say. Set a good example by wearing bike helmets themselves and practicing safe cycling skills. Remember all bicycle helmets should be CSA CPSC or Snell certified and fit properly. All cyclists under 18 must wear a helmet.
As a parent, we all struggle with figuring out when our child is ready. When are they ready to bike to school without an adult? Your child wants to ride a bicycle to school and naturally you worry. Maybe they will need to cross a busy street and maybe they won’t. What to do? You need to feel at ease with your decision. Keep in mind that most kids under the age of 9 will not have the skills to bicycle safely without supervision.
The following may help you make the decision:
- Can your child cycle well enough to:
- check over their shoulder while cycling in a straight line ?
- quickly and confidently apply brakes to stop ?
- ride with one hand while displaying safety hand signals ?the ability to know the speed of other vehicles ?
- Avoiding a bicycle accident: Can your child?
- know their right from left ?
- the ability to avoid distractions ?
- lock up the bicycle on their own ?
Avoiding an Ottawa cycling accident: Does your child understand:
- what yield means ?
- what “right of way” means ?
- what road signs mean and where to look for them ?
Avoiding an Ottawa cycling accident : Cycling with an infant:
As an Ottawa bicycle accident lawyer, I would advise against cycling with infants who do not have sufficient neck strength to hold their heads up while wearing a helmet . It is best to wait until your infant is able to sit up on their own and can wear a properly fitted certified bicycle helmet.
Avoiding an Ottawa cycling accident : Cycling with a toddler:
As an Ottawa bicycle accident lawyer, in my opinion, toddlers are safest on a bicycle when they are in a bicycle trailer or in a seat mounted to a bicycle frame. Again, please make sure your toddler is wearing an approved and properly fitted bicycle helmet and that your trailer or seat is firmly attached to the bicycle.
Avoiding an Ottawa cycling accident : Cycling with a bike trailer:
Bicycle trailers offer a more stable and secure environment for your toddler. Not to mention that extra space can be valuable for bringing along toys, snacks, extra clothing or other supplies; which can extend the life of your bike ride and possibly avoid a melt-down. The dangers with bike trailers are that they are less visible and your child is farther away. For safety, it is recommended that you attach a bright coloured safety flag to the trailer for greater visibility, and if possible, ride with another adult behind the trailer.
Avoiding an Ottawa cycling accident : Cycling with a rear-mounted seat :
Bicycles equipped with rear-mounted seats allow you to keep your child close to you. However, they also shift the centre of gravity, which may make cycling challenging. It is recommended that you first practice riding with a weight comparable to the child’s in the seat. It is also important to make sure your seat has a high back, a shoulder and lap harness, and foot guards to protect feet from the spokes.
Avoiding an Ottawa cycling accident : Cycling with a front-mounted seat:
There are many types of front-mounted bicycle seats. As an Ottawa Bicycle accident lawyer, I feel that bicycle seats mounted to the handlebars should be avoided, as they may affect steering control. Other front-mounted seats that attach to both the seat and handlebar may be more stable and keep your child in front of you. This would allow you to keep an eye on your child, as well as the road.
Avoiding an Ottawa cycling accident : Cycling with a bike-trailer:
Young children can ride with an adult using a trailer-bike. The bike trailer attaches to the seat post and allows an adult bicycle to become a tandem bike for kids. It is especially useful for longer trips where young children may get tired pedaling on their own.
All this to say, we need to use common sense and exercise absolute caution when cycling. There are many Ottawa bicycle accidents daily and sadly some involve children and are very serious. Cycling is an amazing activity to do with children, which is why it is so important at a young age to teach them right , as we all want our children to enjoy a long life of cycling. Be safe and happy cycling Ottawa.