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Children riding bicycle

Every year on May 9th children around the country are encouraged to ride a bike to school or even get in a walk. Your child may come home with a flyer about the event if their school participates.

Riding a bike to school is an excellent way to get in some exercise, avoid traffic, and reduce emissions. The first National Walk to School Day was held in 1997, and the National Bike to School Day came in 2012. Since then, these events have been repeating themselves to show children the joy and independence they get from walking or biking to school each day.

If your child plans to participate in the event, you will want to brush them up on some essential bicycle safety tips.

Cycling Safety is a Must for Chicago Residents

Cycling to work or school is healthy, gets you out in the fresh air, and even squeezes in exercise. However, that ride means you will be sharing the road with motor vehicles, and not all drivers exercise caution when sharing the road with bicycles.

In 2015, there were more than 1,000 bicycle rider fatalities, and over 467,000 injuries in accidents. Certain groups are at higher risk for injury or fatal accidents. Adults between the ages of 50 to 59 were at the highest risk for a fatality in a bicycle accident, while children between the ages of five to 19 were at high risk for serious injuries. Adolescents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, account for one-third of bicycle accidents reported.

Most fatalities occur in urban areas and not in the intersection like you would think. Therefore, these catastrophic accidents can occur in your seemingly quiet neighborhood.

Whether you are riding alongside your child, they are with friends, or they are going to bike alone, make sure everyone in your household brushes up on bike safety basics so that this Bike to School Day on May 9th will be one that is accident-free.

Tips for Staying Safe while Riding a Bike in Chicago

It does not matter if your child is riding two blocks or 20. Now is the time to brush up on smart, effective safety tips that could make a difference later.

Always Wear a Helmet

Not all cities or states require that bicycle helmets are worn, but they can be the difference between a serious accident with long-term disabilities and an accident one fully recovers from. Right now, Chicago is in a big debate whether a helmet is useful in a crash.

There are pros and cons to their use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 70 percent of cycling fatalities occurred because the rider was not wearing a helmet. A person without a helmet is 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal bike accident too. Other advocates feel that the helmet is only part of the picture. If a cyclist wears a helmet, it might protect their head. However, that does not mean they should forgo all other safety tips or even ride recklessly assuming the helmet will save them no matter what.

What is the Helmet Law in Chicago?

Right now, adults and children have a choice whether to wear a helmet. It is rare for a city not to require a person under the age of 18, but it is up to the parent if they want their child to wear one. The only people legally mandated to wear a helmet in Illinois are bike messengers and delivery services that utilize bicycles. The rest of the population can choose.

Regardless of the law, it is in your child’s best interest to wear a helmet while riding their bike to school. Make sure the helmet is the appropriate size (most are sized by age for children). Have them try it on and ensure there is a snug fit, but not too tight. The helmet should cover their head, but not be so bulky that it covers their line of sight.

Make sure your child knows how to clasp the helmet too. Wearing a helmet will do nothing if it is not secured in place.

Ride on the Sidewalk (When You Can)

Children can ride on the sidewalk in some areas of the city. However, if your child is riding on the sidewalk, they are required to obey all pedestrian signs and signals. That means using designated crosswalks, waiting for motor vehicles to stop, and so forth.

Also, if your child is riding his or her bike on the sidewalk, they are required to look for pedestrians and yield the right of way to them. They can slow down and pass those walking, but they must alert them of their presence.

Know the Pavement Markings

If your child rides on the road, they need to know the pavement markings and what they indicate. All riders on the roadway are required to obey similar laws to vehicles, including yielding at stop lights and stopping for pedestrian traffic.

Make Sure Your Child Knows the Traffic Lights

Traffic signals tell motorists and cyclists when they can go and when they must stop. A cyclist must stop at a red light with vehicles. If they have a yellow they can proceed through with caution but should look for vehicles that may be speeding through to catch the light. If the light is flashing red, they must stop, look all ways, then proceed across.

A light flashing yellow means that cyclists and motorists must slow down before passing through with caution.

Ride One to a Bike Only

While it might be tempting to let a friend hitch a ride, two to a bike made for one is never safe. Riding with more than one person makes it hard to balance the bike, come to a stop and the passenger can block your child’s view.

Always Keep Both Hands on the Handlebars

Whether it is horseplay or fidgeting with something, the moment a hand is removed from the handlebar is becomes harder to control the bike or press the brakes – which could save a life. Always have your child wear a backpack so that his or her hands are completely free for their bike. Also, they should ride slower on wet or bumpy roads so that they can control the bike easier.

Make Sure the Bike is Ready

Even if your child rides their bike every day, bikes need maintenance just like motor vehicles. The bike needs reflectors, a well-oiled chain, inflated tires, and the brakes checked. Make sure the brakes are working and replace the pads if they seem bumpy, make weird noises, or your child notices the bike doesn’t stop as quickly as it once did.

One area people forget to check is the handlebar and seat. Make sure both are at the proper height and securely attached.

Ride with Traffic; Not Against

Your child should know to ride with traffic always. That means alongside the vehicles. Going against traffic can draw vehicles in toward the rider rather than keep them away.

Be Aware of the Weather

Check the weather before riding that day. If the roads are going to be icy or slick, consider taking your child to school. If they need to ride, make sure they have the right gear to ride in those conditions. While it might be daytime, they need more reflective gear in poor weather to ensure vehicles see them.

Also, they need waterproof jackets and backpacks so that they do not arrive at school soaking.

Ride in Groups

See if your child has some friends in the neighborhood who will also ride their bike. Children are more likely to be seen by motorists when they are riding in a group then solo. Even a group of two is more visible to motorists than one bike.

Avoid the Distractions

Today, we live in a society that is driven by electronics. Whether it is a digital music player or cellphone, these distractions are not just affecting motorists; they affect riders too. Make sure your child knows to not ride distracted, be aware of his or her surroundings, and always make eye contact with drivers to ensure they are doing the same.

Was Your Child Injured?

If your child was injured while riding to school or just riding their bike around the neighborhood, you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries. Speak with an attorney today from Malman Law and let our team discuss your options and your rights.

Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today at 888-305-5043 or request more information online.

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