School is back in session and the weather is nice. This will result in students walking and riding bikes to and from school. As a parent, you may find yourself wondering how to keep your kids safe when they’re away from home. It begins as soon as your child steps foot outside the house. Teaching your children about pedestrian and bike safety is paramount—even if your kids don’t walk to school or are too young to ride their bikes unattended. Inevitably and eventually, your children will be somewhere—even if it’s only a parking lot—where they will have to navigate real traffic.
Following is a list of tips to ensure your children’s safety and begin proactive pedestrian and cycling practices:
1. When biking, always wear a properly fitted helmet. This can save lives if your child takes a tumble or a driver does not see them.
2. Wear bright colors. Whether your child is walking or riding, wearing bright colors ensures that drivers are alert and aware of their presence.
3. Put away phones and headphones, especially when crossing the street. Keep distractions at bay by staying alert to both sight and sound.
4. Even at an early age, teach kids to look left, then right, and left again before crossing the street. Remind them to keep looking back and forth until they are safely across.
5. Cyclists should use the proper hand signals when turning, always following the rules of the road and with the flow of traffic. Make sure that your child is proficient at riding before setting them out on their own. Encourage your children to ride in a straight line, never swerving in and out of traffic.
6. Children under 10 should preferably walk with an adult. While the maturity and ability of each child varies, as a general rule, kids under 10 should always have supervision and hold the hand of an adult when crossing the street.
7. When biking, encourage your children to ride on the sidewalk as much as possible. When that is not an option, ensure they are riding in a bike lane or to the far right of the street, going with the flow of car traffic.
8. When walking, children should ALWAYS be on the sidewalk if available. Encourage your kids not to walk in heavily-trafficked areas without sidewalks. Teach children to always cross the street at crosswalks or designated cross points. Unlike cyclists, pedestrians should walk opposite the flow of traffic (to the far left) so drivers can see them from a distance and so your children can see cars coming from afar.
9. In dark or low-light situations, ensure your child is in reflective gear or that they are equipped with a light. The darker it is, the more alert your children should be.
10. Set a good example for your children. As the old adage goes, “monkey see, monkey do,” and our children will always follow the example we set. As a result, when you are walking and cycling together, ensure that you are also following proper safety etiquette, putting phones and distractions away, and being cognizant of proper safety practices.
Only you know if your children are ready to bike and walk alone. But before you make the decision, ensure they are properly prepared by speaking to them directly about safety. Please articulate why it’s important and why it’s important to care. Let’s have a safe return to school!