When can my child ride bicycle on the street?

For many children, bicycling can be one of the best summertime activities. As a parent, you probably want to be supportive of your child’s interest in this healthy activity, but you may have concerns about your child’s safety.

It is understandable that you may have safety concerns when there were almost 800 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes in 2017. However, as unsettling as that statistic may be, bicycling can be a safe activity for your child.

Each child is unique

Every child has different abilities, so there is no set time when it is appropriate to allow a child to bicycle on the street. To determine if you should allow your child to bicycle on the street, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my child’s bicycle sized appropriately?
  • Is my child’s helmet sized appropriately?
  • Can my child ride predictably?
  • Can my child make safe decisions regarding traffic?

Signs your child may not be ready

To ride safely on the street, a child should be able to behave predictably. If a child’s bicycle is too big or too small, he or she may be more likely to lose control of it, which could be unpredictable to drivers. Additionally, it could be hazardous if your child cannot bicycle in a straight line or does not know hand signals.

Your child should also be able to make safe decisions regarding traffic, like when to stop or when to cross the street. Most young children struggle to determine the source of a sound, evaluate cause and effect, exhibit patience and separate reality from fantasy, which all contribute to making good traffic decisions. Also, children younger than about 8 years old often do not have a sense of danger, so they may not recognize which decisions could be hazardous.

Supervised rides may be a good place to start

If your child can ride predictably, but may not reliably make safe decisions about traffic, he or she may still be able to bicycle on the road with supervision. The first couple times you allow your child to ride on the road, consider asking him or her to follow your lead. When you and your child are comfortable, you may let your child lead as you follow and supervise.

However, sometimes even in the best circumstances, children have accidents when riding bicycle. A properly fitted helmet can protect your child from receiving a severe head injury if he or she falls of the bike, takes a corner too fast or is involved in any other kind of accident.

As a parent, it can be nerve-racking to allow your child to bicycle on the street for the first time. However, by making sure your child is ready and taking steps to promote safety, you can help your child avoid being involved in a traffic collision.