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Bicycle Safety

What do I need to know about bicycles before I buy one?

Make sure that the bicycle is the right size for you or for your child. It should have the proper seat height. Your hands should be able to hold the handlebars easily without having to lean forward. You should be able to easily hold the hand brakes to stop the bicycle. The bicycle should be equipped with reflectors, a horn or bell, at least 1 side-view mirror, and head and tail lights. Your child's bicycle may need training wheels until he learns to keep his balance.

What should I check on a bicycle before I ride it?

  • Brakes and tires: Make sure the brakes work properly and the tires have the proper amount of air.

  • Lights and reflectors: Check if the bicycle has reflectors and if the lights are working. Lights and reflectors will help drivers and other people see you or your child on the bicycle.

  • Loose parts: Check and repair any loose or damaged parts on the bicycle before you ride it.

What increases the risk of injury?

Bicycle injuries most commonly occur in children ages 5 to 14. The following may increase the risk of injury:

  • Balance problems: Children who have trouble keeping their balance have an increased risk of getting hurt.

  • Extra riders: Only 1 person should ride a single-seat bicycle. When another person rides on the handlebars, the risk of injury to both riders increases.

  • Riding fast: This and other dangerous activities, such as stunts, increase the risk of getting hurt.

  • Road conditions: These include uneven or wet roads and sidewalks and roads that are covered with sticks, rocks, or trash.

  • Failure to follow traffic rules: Bicycle riders who do not follow traffic rules are more likely to get hurt. This includes riding the wrong way on a one-way street or running traffic lights and stop signs. Bicycle riders who do not yield to a motorist's right of way or use hand signals are at risk of getting hurt.

  • Weather: Riding a bicycle in bad weather, such as rain and lightening storms, may increase your risk of injury.

How can I prevent an injury?

  • Wear protective clothing:

    • Helmet: Always wear a helmet when you ride a bicycle, even on short trips. A helmet helps to protect you from a head or face injury. Wear a light-colored helmet with a reflective sticker on the back to make it easier for other drivers to see you. Check inside the helmet for a sticker or label stating that the helmet meets safety standards. The helmet should be approved by the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).

    • Protective gear: The use of elbow or knee pads may help prevent injury.

    • Bright or reflective clothes: Wear a reflective vest when you ride a bicycle in the dark. Wear bright clothing so that others can see you during the day.

  • Teach your child about bicycle safety: Before you allow your child to ride a bicycle, teach him about proper bicycle equipment and safety.

  • Follow traffic rules: Ride with the flow of traffic and use hand signals when you make a turn. Avoid high-traffic areas and ride on lanes provided for bicycles whenever possible.

  • Be aware of your surroundings: Always look for obstacles in your path. Be aware of the people and traffic around you.

Where can I find more information?

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington , DC 20590
    Phone: 1- 888 - 327-4236
    Web Address:
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
    11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
    Leawood , KS 66211-2680
    Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
    Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You or your child has muscle aches or pain after a bicycle accident.

  • You or your child has scrapes, cuts, or bruises caused by a bicycle accident.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You or your child hit your head or face during a bicycle accident.

  • You or your child may have broken bones caused by a bicycle accident.

  • You or your child throws up or coughs up blood after a bicycle accident.

Care Agreement

You and your child have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about bicycle safety. You can then talk with caregivers to decide what choices are best for you or your child. You always have the right to refuse treatment and make your own decisions.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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