May is National Bike Month! This is the perfect time for all cycling enthusiasts, old and new, to dust off their bikes and go for a ride. It includes numerous community events to encourage new riders, highlight the benefits of cycling, and promote safe practices every time you take to the road. The first event is Bike to School Day on Wednesday, May 8th.
Why Ride Your Bike to School?
Biking to school is a great way to incorporate regular physical activity into a child’s day. Studies have shown that kids who are physically active are more likely to become physically active adults. In the long term, this can decrease the risk of obesity and related complications. Instilling good habits early can help kids avoid diabetes, heart disease, and stroke later in life.
Better for the Environment
Bikes, unlike cars, are pollution-free transportation. Encouraging more people to use bicycles will reduce our use of fossil fuels and decrease levels of toxic air pollutants. Improving air quality also improves the overall health of everyone in our communities.
Beyond the initial investment of a bike, riding is free. Biking to school will save your family money by reducing your car mileage and the need for gas. In the long run, it will also save on car servicing and repairs. It can also save your community money by reducing the need for buses and for building and maintaining roads.
Reducing Traffic in Your Community
Fewer personal vehicles on the road will help reduce traffic congestion in your community. Biking to school also means reducing the stop-and-go traffic around schools during pick up and drop off times.
Improving Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety
Less vehicle traffic makes communities safer for pedestrians and cyclists. In this regard, biking to school has a positive effect that keeps paying forward. As more people see how safe it is for pedestrians and cyclists, they are more likely to try it themselves. It can also be a good incentive for communities to invest in walking and biking paths.
Bike to School Safety Tips
Always Wear a Helmet
Make sure you always wear your helmet, even if it’s just a short ride. Check that your helmet fits properly, especially if you haven’t ridden in a while. If a helmet is too small (or large), it may not protect you well during a crash.
Check Your Bike
Always check your bike before you ride to make sure it’s road ready. Your seat should be level, not tilted. It should be properly adjusted for your height, allowing a slight bend at the knee when your leg is fully extended. The handlebars should be the same height as the seat. It’s also important to check that your tires are properly inflated and that your brakes work.
Dress to Be Seen
Wear brightly colored clothes with reflective strips so that you’ll be seen easily. These can be helpful for visibility even if you’re only riding in daylight hours. Consider getting a headlight and tail light for your bike if you ever need to ride after dark.
Ride on the Sidewalk (If Appropriate)
Riding on the sidewalk is legal in my many jurisdictions for children under the age of 10. This is a safer place for kids to ride, since they’ll encounter fewer vehicles. Check your local laws and, if possible, find routes for your child that keep them on the sidewalks, if appropriate.
Watch for Hazards
It may seem fun to ride on gravel or hop over a gap in the sidewalk, but it’s better to avoid all obstacles and hazards that might cause you to lose control of your bike. If you are riding with friends, let them know if you see a hazard ahead. Pay attention, stay on safe ground, and you’ll arrive at school without injuries.
In this context, your bike is a vehicle, not a toy. You should ride in a straight line. Stay off the grass and avoid swerving unnecessarily.
Use Hand Signals
Even if you’re not riding on the road, it’s important to use hand signals when you turn. Again, if other vehicles know your intentions, it will be easier for everyone to avoid a crash.
Obey All Traffic Signals
Stop at all stop signs, traffic lights, and other signals when you are on your bike. Remember that cars will be going a lot faster than you are. Even if you don’t see one as you begin to cross, one may appear and they may have the right of way. Follow all the rules of the road.
Bike Safety Activities for Kids
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has excellent bike safety activities for kids. These are perfect for both home and classroom use.
One of the best ways to teach kids bike safety, however, is to ride with them and demonstrate good safety behaviors. What better way to kick off National Bike Month? Have a great ride!