If your little one is between the ages of 1 and 5, a bicycle-mounted seat is an easy way to take him along for the ride. These seats mount either in front of or behind the adult cyclist's seat and let kids enjoy all the pleasure of a bicycle ride while mom or dad does all the work. Not a bad deal. Just make sure your child is old enough before introducing him to the family bike ride. The American Academy of Pediatrics says infants under the age of 12 months should never sit on a bicycle — not in a seat, backpack or front pack.
Before heading out, take a test drive and get used to the feeling of having the extra weight, which can have an effect on the handling of the bike. Make sure you are comfortable with your child in the seat, because a fall from that height could potentially cause serious injury to your small passenger.
Always conduct a pre-ride safety check to make sure your child's helmet fits properly, his straps are buckled and tightened and that the seat is properly attached. If your child can not sit well unsupported or if his neck is not strong enough to support a light styrofoam helmet (that meets Consumer Product Safety Commission standards) do not use a front-mounted bicycle-mounted seat, but put them in bike trailer or rear-mounted seat instead.
Finally, take the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics and make sure your rear-mounted seat is securely attached over the rear wheel and has a high back, sturdy shoulder harness and lap belt that will support a sleeping child. Your bike should also have spoke guards to protect dangling feet and hands.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a bicycle trailer as a safer option than a bicycle mounted seat. Consumer Reports agrees. A bicycle trailer is closer to the ground (not as far to fall), potentially easier to maneuver, and less risky, since the children are contained in a zipped-up fabric enclosure. Although bike trailers are generally considered a safer option for kids who aren't yet ready for their own wheels, they must still wear a properly fitting helmet for protection.
Congratulations! Your child has graduated to his own set of wheels. We have three words for you. Helmets, helmets and — you guessed it — helmets. Multiple studies show the effectiveness of helmets in preventing head, skull and brain injuries — and saving lives. Visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/bicycles to find out how to properly fit a helmet on your child's head.
Of course, parents are the ultimate role models when it comes to modeling bicycle safety. Always wear a helmet yourself. Show your children how to make eye contact with drivers to ensure they will stop and allow you to cross the street. Teach kids to ride on the right side of the road as far in as possible, to use hand signals and to follow the rules of the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website is an excellent resource for kids' bicycle safety materials and activities including a Hand Signals Guide, Rules of the Road checklist, Bike Riding Hazards activity sheet and more.
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