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Safety on the Street: Bicycle Safety Tips

8 tips For bicycle safety and pedestrian safety from St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital experts

October is bookended by two events that give our little monsters and goblins plenty of opportunity to take to the streets. Oct. 2 is International Walk to School Day, when participating schools encourage parents and students to leave the car in the garage and start off their morning with a pleasant walk to school. And of course, Oct. 31 is when trick-or-treaters fill their neighborhood sidewalks—and streets—with unusual activity. 

That makes October an excellent time for Michelle Sterling, a Wellness and Safety Specialist with St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, to give us a reminder about bike and pedestrian safety. 

“Unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related deaths in kids ages 5-19,” Sterling says. Especially with the levels of excitement that surround kids on both Halloween and unusual days like Walk to School Day, it’s important that adults pay extra attention to their own actions as well as those of their little ones and model proper practices. The number one thing parents can do to be sure their children are safe? “Teach good behavior from the beginning,” says Sterling. “If you start then, they will be willing to continue as they get older.”

Here are Sterling’s Top eight tips for pedestrian and bike safety:

  1. Put your cell phones down. Whether you’re reading texts as you walk down a sidewalk, are absorbed in a phone call when crossing the street or riding a bicycle with earphones plugged in, you are distracted. So is your child. 
  2. Teach even the tiniest children the Left-Right-Left rule. Look left, look right, look left again. Continue looking until you are safely across. It’s also a good idea to teach children to try and make eye contact with an approaching driver before crossing.
  3. Walk on sidewalks and cross at crosswalks. If there is no sidewalk and you must walk on the street, face oncoming traffic and walk as far left as possible. If you are riding a bicycle on the street, ride in the same direction as the traffic, and ride as far to the right as possible.
  4. When walking at night, early morning or dusk, wear or have your children wear bright-colored clothing so they can be spotted easily. Reflective jackets and blinking lights are useful accessories, as are reflective stickers to put on yourself or your bicycle.
  5. Teach children to pause at driveways. Drivers are often focused on closing their garage doors or adjusting vehicle controls and may not be focused on the pathway behind them. Children should stop and make sure the car has reversed onto the street, or that the driver has acknowledged them before proceeding.
  6. When riding a bicycle, be predictable. Don’t turn fast, make sudden unexpected movements and make sure you use hand signals. 
  7. Whatever you “wheel” around on, make sure you wear a properly-fitted helmet. Helmets should sit two finger-widths above eyebrows, and straps should form a “V” over the ears. You should be able to insert no more than a finger between the chin strap and the chin. To make sure it fits properly, have your child tilt their head from side to side to do the “wobble test” to ensure the helmet doesn’t move.  
  8. Make sure your child’s vision isn’t impeded in any way. Especially during Halloween, try and avoid masks that might block their view of the street.

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