By Kathryn Dunmore, Canadian Red Cross

In my mind’s eye, teaching my just-turned-five-year-old nephew how to ride a bike would make for delightful memories resulting in his lifelong enjoyment of this popular activity. In reality, it was not. It made for resistance, trepidation and dramatic reactions to falling off this two-foot-high bike with training wheels.

And there was more than just teaching the mechanics of riding a bike. Riding a bike has been a lifelong activity, whether biking as a kid with friends on suburban roads or as an adult on the streets of Toronto, and I just assumed my nephew would immediately take to it.

He didn’t; in fact, his lack of finesse on Learning to ride a bike involves more than just the mechanics of bike ridingthe bicycle had me referring to Red Cross’ suggestions on how to do this properly. I needed to know more than teaching him how pedalling makes you go. Impressing upon him these safety precautions will hopefully lead to a safer form of exercise and transportation once he gets the swing of it. I also wanted to teach him the responsibility that comes with riding a bike, and all the rules that come along with doing so safely.
  1. The helmet is paramount. Children should wear properly fitted and secure helmets (you may have to make them – studies show children between ages of 10 and 14 are least likely to wear a helmet). And with even the smallest of falls, I assured my devastated (with what he assumed were mortal injuries) nephew he would be alright as he had his helmet on.
  2. Bright is right. Show them how having reflective stripes on clothing and bicycles, and using flickering lights (even during daylight hours) will help make cyclists more visible to motorists.
  3. Avoid crowds. Teach children to keep away from busy streets and parking lots to minimize injury or collisions with motor vehicles (motorists are often looking for other cars, not cyclists).
  4. Know the rules. It should go without saying that everyone learning to ride a bicycle should know and obey traffic rules when cycling on the road. A visual tutorial with Lego helped my young nephew begin to understand the rules of the road.
  5. Bike with a buddy. If children or youth are cycling any distance without parental supervision, bike with a buddy, agree in advance on a return time and stick to a route that’s familiar, illuminated and avoids secluded areas. While my nephew is nowhere near ready to venture out with a buddy, it’s good he is aware of the parameters once he is.
  6. Be prepared. This goes for everyone – ensure you have first aid training to have the skills and confidence to provide emergency treatment for common cycling injuries like falls, fractures or bleeding.
Find out more on encouraging bike safety and download the Red Cross First Aid app to handle emergencies on the go.