When it comes to your kids, is there such a thing as “too safe”?
As you know from movies, books and real life, learning how to ride a bike is often a formative moment in a childhood. The training wheels, the protective gear... parents and guardians are sure to do their very best to make the first ride a wonderful experience.
However, at some point the training wheels need to come off.
Children are more likely to get hurt while cycling than adults. We’re not talking about the usual falls and scrapes, since those are a normal part of learning to cycle. No, we’re talking about the fact that kids are smaller, less predictable and less likely to pay attention to their surroundings than an avaerage adult. Also, their knowledge of laws and rules is far less advanced, which puts them in additional danger.
CLARA is, as we often mention, a primarily cycling company. We cycle to work and to party, we cycle to a countryside picnic during the weekend. When given the opportunity, we even cycle in unknown cities and countries.
Our motto is “BE SEEN”. We don’t consider this an inspirational quote – it’s advice we give to everybody, no matter what their role in traffic might be. Be seen and you won’t be mistaken for a shadow. Be seen and be recognized as a person jogging in the dark. Be seen and you’ll be safer.
If you think about it rationally, this can pose a very large issue for kids. Their size is an obvious problem. It’s hard enough to see a grown cyclist whizzing past at eye-height. A kid can ride under the radar, and that makes them very unlikely to BE SEEN and very likely to BE HURT.
Don’t worry! We’re not just here to make you afraid of letting your kids take out their bikes. There are always measures you can take to give the visibility of your child a boost.
Taking up first place is definitely a need for lights and reflectors. Place them strategically – this isn’t just advice for a kid alone on a bike, but for parents taking their kids out in a bike trailer or cargo bikes. Mark the edges of the addition to your bike and you’re sure to make drivers and pedestrians pay attention to you. Add a little flag or windmill – there is no wrong way to accessorize, especially when it comes to kids.
Another good idea is to teach your kids fundamental street signs. You could make it into a game, trying to compete on who guesses the meanings of most signs or who sees a STOP sign first. These types of lessons tend to stick for a long time, and there is absolutely no down-side to them.
Apart from learning set rules, you could also make up some specifically for your kids. For instance, you could make it into a taboo to go off the footpath before they’re teenagers. Streets, no matter how wide, can be a scary and dangerous place. Keeping your child among pedestrians is more likely to keep them safe.
For those that are more lenient with their kids’ curfew – night rides are far more likely to result in harm.
If you can handle it, take night rides off the table altogether until you’re sure your child is ready. Sometimes, a level of cycling maturity is visible in preteens. Sometimes, you run into a college graduate that still believes the car can’t hurt him if he closes his eyes.
Every child and every ride is different. As responsible adults and dedicated cyclists, the CLARA team wishes to promote the idea of safety and visibility. However, a basis is always necessary. Safety training should be a part of the cycling culture, and you should feel free to send in some suggestions on how you would empower it.