Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Keep Your Kids Safe on Their Bikes

Police officer Matt Goetz has been active in keeping cyclists safe. Photo by Scott H. Shook

Police officer Matt Goetz has been active in keeping cyclists safe. Photo by Scott H. Shook

With summer break upon us, many of the island’s children will be bicycling, whether it be to the Y, racket center, or to a friend’s house. Here are some ways parents can help their kids bicycle safely.

Kids need to make sure they obey the law when riding on the island’s bike lanes and shared use paths. Remember parents, children under 16 are required to wear a helmet while cycling. They also need to make sure their helmet is buckled. It’s not uncommon to see kids on the island riding around with their helmets unbuckled. Of course an unbuckled bike helmet is useless in an accident. It is also important to make sure the helmet is properly fitted. The helmet should be snug, level and stable once buckled.

It is also important to remind kids that pedestrians have the right of way on shared use paths (also known as wide sidewalks). Remind them to slow down when passing pedestrians and to use their bell to announce their presence. Parents should make sure their child’s bike has a bell that is easy to use. The bell should be placed in a position that makes it easy for your child to use it while pedaling. It wouldn’t hurt to have a little practice session with your child before they leave the house.

If your child will be riding on the road, whether on an in-road lane or on a low traffic road, it is important to make sure your child understands that cyclists follow the same rules as motorists. One rule that is commonly broken on the island involves cyclists riding against traffic in bike lanes. Besides being dangerous, riding against traffic is against the law and can result in a traffic ticket.

Although you can cycle either way on shared use paths, it is advisable to ride in the same direction as traffic whenever possible. Motorists are conditioned to look for bicycles traveling the same direction as traffic. Consequently, drivers are often surprised when bicycles travel opposite the flow of traffic.

Take a moment to go over hand signals with your child. The most important come when signaling for left and right-hand turns. I suggest using the left hand to signal for a left turn and the right hand to signal for a right turn. I find that when cyclists use their left hand to signal a right-hand turn, motorists often think the cyclist is waving to them.

Parents should also remind their kids to stop at all stop signs. For some reason cyclists of all ages blow through stop signs when bicycling. Of course it is not okay to ignore stop signs when bicycling—and doing so can lead to a traffic ticket.

Finally, your child may need to be reminded that in Florida it is illegal to use earbuds or headphones when cycling.

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