Summer Safety Series: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Bicycle Injuries

Bicycle riding is a great way to keep kids busy and active in the summer months. Not only is it fun, but it is an activity that the entire family can enjoy together. Unfortunately, it is important to keep in mind that accidents can happen. Children are more likely to get hurt simply because they are learning to ride, going too fast, riding near cars and traffic, or are not using safety gear.[1]  Injury prevention is crucial to keeping kids safe.

Why is injury prevention important?

7, 500 Canadian cyclists are seriously injured every year, with 18% of those killed being under the age of 16.[2] Taking a few precautionary steps, such as wearing a helmet, can substantially reduce the risk of serious injury and death. The following are some easy steps parents can take in order to keep bicycle riding fun while safe:

Always make sure your child wears a helmet

Head injuries are the number one cause of serious injury and death for kids riding bicycles. A head injury can permanently affect the way your child walks, talks, plays and thinks.  A properly fitted helmet helps protect the brain from absorbing the force from a crash or fall, cutting the risk of serious head injury by up to 80%. In other words, four out of five brain injuries could be prevented if every cyclist wore a helmet[3], making it important to teach children how to wear a helmet the right way[4]:

  • There should be two finger widths between the eyebrows and the helmet.
  • The straps should lay flat against the face.
  • The side straps should meet just below the ear making a V-shape under the ear lobe.
  • The chin strap should be fastened with enough room to fit one finger between the chin and the strap, using the sizing pads provided with the helmet to adjust the fit if necessary.
  • Never allow your child to wear a hat under his or her bike helmet.
  • Never allow your child to tip the helmet back, exposing the forehead.

In the event that your child has fallen and put his or her helmet to the test, make sure to get a new one right away. Helmets may become damaged after a fall or crash. The foam in most helmets is made for a one-time use and will not be as protective as it once was after an impact.

The ABC Quick Check:

The ABC Quick Check [5] is a fast and easy way to check your kids’ bikes every time they leave the house, older children can learn to do this on their own:

  • A is for Air: Check the tires to make sure they have enough air and no damage.
  • B is for Brakes and Bars: Check the breaks to see if they work properly. Standing beside the bike, pull the front brake only and push forward on the handlebars. The front wheel should lock up and the back wheel should leave the ground. Then pull the back brake only and walk forward, the back wheel should lock and skid along the ground.
  • C is for Cranks and Chain: Pull the cranks away from the bike—if they are loose, tighten the bolt. Make sure that the chain is free of rust and gunk.
  • Quick is for quick releases: Make sure the quick releases are all closed. They should all be pointing to the back of the bike, so that they don’t get caught on anything.
  • Check is for a final check over: Lift the bike several inches off the ground and drop it. Listen for loose parts. Tighten as necessary. Take a quick ride to ensure that the bike is working properly.

Obeying Road Rules and Staying Alert

Teaching children to obey road rules when they are young will better safeguard that they continue to do so when they are older and riding their bikes on their own and on the road.  Children should learn to: [6]

  • Always ride with their hands on the handlebars.
  • Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving the driveway, an alley, or a curb.
  • Cross at intersections.
  • Never ride against traffic.
  • Obey traffic lights and all stop signs.
  • Use bicycle lanes or designated bike routes wherever they are available.
  • Use hand signals:

Children should also be advised to avoid wearing headphones so that they are not distracted by music and unable to hear background noise around them.

Other tips:

Besides the equipment required of cyclists by law (, cyclists should also consider wearing bright coloured clothing to be more visible, wear shoes that cover the toes, and not wear loose clothing that can get caught in the bike chain.[7] Parents can also enroll their children in bicycle riding classes such as Pedalheads where children are provided with safety and bike proficiency training.[8]



[3] Supra note 1.

[4]  &


[6] Supra note 4.

[7] Ibid.


Colleen McHugh


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