Do you have fond memories of riding your bike to school as a kid? Chances are, you do—30 years ago, half of all children biked or walked to school regularly. Today, it’s just 13 percent. But biking is making a comeback. First Lady Michelle Obama has advocated biking and walking to school as part of her Let’s Move initiative. And schools and communities across the country are achieving impressive results, using both simple and high-tech methods to get kids back in the saddle.
Use the following tips to bring the joy of biking to school to your own children.
Stock Up on Bike-Safety Essentials
Your children should have these items on each ride to ensure a safe trip to school.
Helmet: A properly fitting bike helmet has been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent. Bring your kids to your local bike shop with you so they can pick them out—they’ll be more likely to wear them if they helped choose them.
Lights: Front and rear lights will make your child more visible to motorists. Teach your kid to store the lights in his or her backpack during the day—they’re easy to yank off, and you’ll want to make sure you won’t have to replace them.
Bike Lock: To be sure your child’s bike will still be at the rack at the end of the school day, buy a lock. Read Bicycling’s lock reviews to decide what to buy.
Bell: A quick ding of a bell alerts pedestrians that a cyclist is coming their way on a shared-use path.
Arrange a Ride-Pool
Worried about your kid riding to school alone? Arrange a group ride with other children in your neighborhood. Parents can take turns leading the group.
Practice Traffic Skills
Even kids who live too far from school to bike should learn the rules of the road. Teach your children how to signal and how to anticipate possible bike-car collisions.
Let Them Goof Off…Safely
The best way for your kids to learn bike-handling skills? Just let them ride. Take them to a grassy field or BMX park where they can fall without worrying about cars and road rash. They’ll build balance and confidence while having fun.
Make a Route Map
Sometimes, the most direct route to school isn’t the safest. Help your kids plot a route that has bike lanes, wide shoulders, and low traffic.
Ride With Your Kids
The best way to encourage your children to learn to love cycling: Ride with them! If they’re resisting, offer a reward—a 2-mile spin will suddenly seem fun if there’s an ice-cream shop along the route. Bonus: You’ll get fitter, too.