Safety basics: bicycles, scooters and skateboards
Here’s a list of safety basics to follow when your child is learning to ride bicycles, scooters and skateboards:
- Make sure your child rides a bicycle, scooter or skateboard that’s suitable for her age, size and ability.
- Wear a helmet. Helmets are compulsory when riding bikes and recommended when riding scooters, skateboards, rollerblades and so on.
- Use protective gear like wrist guards and knee pads when riding a scooter or skateboard.
- Dress your child in brightly coloured clothing. This helps riders, pedestrians and drivers see your child.
- Teach your child to look carefully at the riding environment to decide whether it’s safe to ride.
- Give your child some practice in a safe area, like your backyard or a park, before heading onto the footpath.
- Always make sure a grown-up is with your child while he’s riding, until he’s at least 10 years old.
Helmets: a safety essential
In Australia, helmets are compulsory for riding bikes and recommended for riding skateboards, scooters, rollerblades and so on. Wearing a helmet will help protect your child against serious head injuries.
Here are tips for finding the safest helmet for bikes and scooters:
- Make sure that the helmet is made to Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2063:2008. Look for the Australian Standards label.
- Take your child with you when buying a helmet to make sure it’s properly fitted.
- Do the ‘push test’ to make sure the helmet is a snug fit. If you can push the helmet backwards, forwards or sideways once you’ve done up the clips, it’s too big.
- Don’t buy a second-hand helmet – there’s no way of knowing if the previous owner has damaged it in an accident.
- Always replace helmets after an impact or accident.
A skateboarding helmet should protect the back of your child’s head, so a bike helmet is the wrong shape for skateboarding. There is no Australian Standard for skateboarding helmets. You can still use the tips above to get the right fit.
When your child is wearing a bike, scooter or skateboarding helmet, the chinstrap should always be firmly fastened and not twisted.
You can set a good example for your child by always wearing a helmet when you’re riding a bike, scooter or skateboard.
Bicycles: safety guidelines
To ride safely in traffic, your child must be able to do all of the following things at once:
- Control the bike on different road surfaces.
- Be aware of cars and other vehicles on the road around her.
- Understand the road rules that apply both to cyclists and drivers.
These skills are still developing until your child is about 12-13 years old.
Learning to ride
Be prepared to spend a lot of time with your child while he masters the skills of balancing, steering and braking. Choose a flat, open space away from traffic, with a soft surface in case of falls.
When your child has learned the basics, she needs time and practice to develop the skills and understanding to ride safely in the street and in traffic. Bike paths are the best place for this, but in some states and territories, children up to a certain age and the adults supervising them can legally ride on footpaths. Check with your local council for information about your area.
It’s great if your child can get extra riding lessons from a school-based bicycle education program when he’s 9-10 years old.
A lot of injuries happen because a child is trying to ride a bike that’s too big.
Make sure your child’s first bike is the right size, and be prepared to change her to bigger bikes as she grows. You’ll know the bike is the right size if your child can straddle her bike and touch the ground with both feet at the same time.
Bike condition checklist
To check that a bike is in good working order, make sure the:
- brakes work correctly
- chain is well oiled and not loose
- tyres are firm, with no bald spots or patches
- pedals spin easily
- bell or horn can be heard clearly
- reflectors and lights are clean and secure
- seat is adjusted to suit your child’s height
- handlebar ends are covered by hand grips.
What to wear
A properly fitted and firmly fastened bike helmet is compulsory. Also, enclosed footwear is best for riding, rather than thongs or bare feet. Your child might hurt his bare feet if they get caught in the spokes or chain, or if your child uses his feet as brakes.
Roads, footpaths, driveways and pedestrian crossings
Here are some safety tips for riding safely around roads, footpaths, driveways and pedestrian crossings:
- Get your child to practise following road rules and predicting what cars will do before you let her cycle alone.
- If your child is under 10 years, he needs to cycle with a grown-up, preferably on bike paths.
- Check the rules for your state or territory about riding on footpaths. If your child rides on footpaths, make sure he knows to watch for vehicles coming out of driveways.
- Teach your child to walk her bike across pedestrian crossings instead of riding across the street.
- Teach your child that he needs to approach driveways and intersections carefully. Riding onto the road from a driveway is particularly risky because parked vehicles can hide a bicycle rider from oncoming drivers.
Things to avoid
Here are some cycling situations to avoid:
- Wet weather: riding in wet weather needs different skills and extra caution. It’s best for your child to avoid this when she’s young and still learning bike safety basics.
- Night-time: your child shouldn’t ride at night. To ride at night, you need special equipment like lights and visibility vests. You also need good traffic awareness and understanding of driver behaviour.
- Stunt riding: discourage dangerous behaviour like ‘look no hands’ and ‘dinking’.
Scooters: safety guidelines
Hospitals report lots of children arriving at emergency departments after falling off metal scooters. To minimise risk, follow these steps.
Check that the scooter has:
- good brakes – check the brakes regularly because they’ll wear down as they get older
- no sharp edges
- a steering column that locks easily, won’t collapse and isn’t too short for your child
- a bell or horn
- handlebar grips that don’t swivel
- a running board high off the ground
- anti-skid footboards.
Scooter lights are a legal requirement for night-time – a white light at the front, and a red light and red reflector at the back. But your child shouldn’t scoot at night.
What to wear
Your child should wear a properly fitted and firmly fastened helmet. It’s also a good idea for your child to wear knee and elbow pads and wrist guards – broken wrists are a common scooter injury.
Learning to scoot
- Supervise your child as he learns to use the scooter in a safe place, like a dual footpath/bike path, which is away from roads, driveways and steep slopes.
- Find out if your local skate park offers scooter lessons.
- Supervise your child when she’s riding a scooter on the streets before judging whether she can scoot alone safely.
- Teach your child road safety rules.
Skateboards and rollerblades: safety guidelines
Teach your child how to fall in a safe way. It’s a good idea to give your child some falling practice on a grassy patch before he hits the skate ramp.
Here are some tips for falling safely:
- Bend your knees and get down low.
- Try to fall sideways, not backwards or head first.
- Try to land on your shoulder and roll.
- Fall onto your pads.
- Kick the board out from under your feet.
What to wear
The following protective gear can help your child stay safe on a skateboard:
- a properly fitted and firmly fastened skate helmet – the helmet should protect the back of your child’s head and sit just above the eyebrows
- wrist guards – broken wrists are a common skating injury
- elbow and knee pads.
- Make sure the skateboard is suited to the size of your child and type of skating she does. You can ask sales assistants to help you choose the right skateboard.
- Check and maintain the skateboard or rollerblades regularly, especially the wheels.
- Don’t skate at night.
- Teach your child to skate within his limits. Complicated tricks take practice, so make sure your child builds up to them.
Where to skate
- Start your child off in your own backyard, in a park, on a bike path or at a skate bowl with beginner slopes.
- Discourage your child from skating on the footpath or road – she’s much more likely to have an accident skating near cars or pedestrians.
- Supervise young children at all times when they’re skating.