Cycling with Kids: Tips for Parents

by Lee Uehara, City Bike Coach

Riding with children in New York City can be enjoyable, really! Here is some very basic information to get started

Different Ways to Ride with Children

In today’s market, parents have many options at various price points. The least expensive way, under $100, is with a rear or front child seat that attaches to the bicycle.  At the $100-$300 range, there are trailers and trailer-bikes. Trailers attach to the rear of the bicycle, usually on the rear wheel. Trail-a-bikes attach to the seat post. Just make sure these options are compatible with the bicycle with which it will be used. The last three categories range from $1,000 to $4,000: front/rear cargo bikes, stroller-bikes, and longtails – bikes with “benches.” Just check that the ride meets safety standards and is lawful for the age of children planned on being transported.

Two Things Parents Should Ask Themselves

Asking these two questions could save lives. Remember, be honest when reflecting upon the answers.

1.  Am I a risk-taker and will I truly slow down with my child(ren)?

Just because parents think they will ride carefully with little passengers does not mean that they will. Some adrenalin-seekers find that they cannot or will not slow down. This riding style may not be as safe, and it may be better to wait. Decide whether the risks are worth it. Renting a bike with a child seat and taking it for a spin could also help answer this question. The goal is for parents to be as informed about their own riding traits to make the best judgment about cycling more safely with children.

2. How will I reinforce good riding habits and safety expectations?

This is just as important as conducting that pre-ride bike check. Everyone has to be on the same page regarding the rules of riding. Think about how to carry out this important routine for riding. Since cycling is fun and rewarding, that’s half the work done in getting children to look forward to riding. It’s the other half that is necessary to know how to handle.

Developmental Stages

Most children under the age of eight years may not have a developed set of reasoning skills. This means that younger ones may forget basic instructions and they may not think about consequences. A common skill-deficit with little ones is stopping and looking both ways before entering or proceeding onto a path or sidewalk.

Thus, it is useful for parents to know what kind of cyclist they want their children to be and to reinforce their cycling core values. Additionally, to help make riding fun and safe, review with little ones the municipality’s bike laws and safe riding routines thoroughly and frequently. This can be done in fun ways such as read-alouds from colorful children’s books about bike safety or friendly quizzes while waiting in line at the grocery store.

Basic Laws

In New York City, it is illegal for children under the age of one year to be on any bicycle; children up to age five must be carried in a properly affixed child carrier; and all children under 14 years must wear a helmet that meets safety standards. Furthermore, all bikes must have bells. For night riding, a white light for the front and a red light for the rear are also mandatory in New York City.

As for where to ride, children may ride on the sidewalk until the age of 13 as long as the diameter of their bike wheels is 24 inches or smaller. All adults must ride in the street. The ticket for this violation is quite high if caught. It is up to parents whether their children are ready for riding in the street.

It is strongly recommended for parents to wear helmets, too. This simple action provides children with a good example close to home as well as reinforcing the idea of safety. Furthermore, in the scary event that a parent succumbs to injury and not the little ones, then they won’t have to take on more responsibility than is age-appropriate during a potentially stressful time. Just remember to periodically check the municipality’s traffic laws and bike riding regulations for any updates.

Lee Uehara is the education director for City Bike Coach, a fun bicycle riding school and coaching service in New York City. CBC also conducts seminars and workshops for companies seeking ways to encourage better health among employees. CBC also offers free, family-friendly weekend rides and six annual holiday rides. For more information, please visit www.CityBikeCoach.com. Or, join City Bike Coach’s free riding groups for families: www.MeetUp.com/NYC-Fun-FAMILY-Cyclers.

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