We’ve had some really horrific and tragic bike accidents in our city as of late.
People have always commuted to work by bike in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. In fact, I distinctly remember my father biking to work every day from our family’s westend home in the suburbs to downtown.
But, now more than ever, we need more cyclists. The environment needs it, our bodies need it, and our children need the role-modelling.
Unfortunately, our city has a lot of work to do before it can be considered cyclist-friendly. In fact, it’s down-right dangerous to even attempt to bike in certain areas of the city. And many cycling enthusiasts, quite rightly, note that motorists are a big part of the problem.
As for me, I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a kid. And even then, it was only around the block.
My seven-year-old daughter, though, just learned how to bike this season on her two-wheeler. And wow! Kids sure learn fast. She has really mastered the skill so quickly. So much so that she has been asking to bike to school now. Despite the hyper-parenting that is a bit pervasive these days, our neighbourhood does have quite a few kids who regularly commute to school on bikes. Which I think is wonderful.
Stella is a bit young to be commuting on her though. So I have been contemplating a bike purchase. Mostly, I’m tempted by the retro bikes with their fun styling and cute baskets on the front. (It’s all about packaging, isn’t it?) They’re not exactly cheap though and I’d hate for the purchase price to end up being used as much as my gym membership (ahem, that is, not much).
Luck shone on us about a week ago with a bike sitting on the edge of the street with a “free” sign. Sure, it doesn’t have a cute banana seat or even any cute paint colours, but it works just fine.
So twice a week now, I’ve been biking in with Stella to school and then I bike back home and do the same at the end of the day. For me, it’s some fresh air. For her, she escapes the dreaded bus ride in the heat.
The kids we see biking along the way all look like proficient bikers. And although they are dutifully wearing their helmets, I fear for their safety.
Why? Well, it seems that they have no clue what the rules of the road are. I have yet to see one of these children use a hand signal and most cross over a road without even turning over their shoulder to check for cars.
If we want to encourage a future generation of happy cycling commuters, it’s going to take more than just a widening of roads and an awareness campaign directed at motorists. We need to make sure that, as cyclists, we’re doing our part to be good citizens of the road.
With this in mind then, I’d like to share some resources for bike safety. If you’re like me, biking was from when you had a pig-tails, so who couldn’t use a little refresher for sharing with their children?
First of all, cyclists need to follow the rules of the road.
I like Ken Kifer’s site because he provides information without fear-mongering about the dangers of cycling. He notes that most of the collisions involving bicycles occurred because the bike rider did not follow the traffic laws for vehicles. On this page, he provides advice for teaching children the rules according to their age. I thought it was quite helpful.
This Young Cyclist’s Guide on the Ontario Transportationwebsite runs through all the safety rules and even provides quizzes for your child to complete.
And just as we expect a car to signal, bikers must also use signals. Here are the hand signals for RIGHT TURN, LEFT TURN, and STOP.
So, let’s not keep our kids locked up in our back yards. Let’s let them have some fun — but prepare them and keep them them safe! Happy biking to all!
Do you let your children bike to school alone? What about around the neighbourhood? Have you had to brake quickly to avoid a child cutting in front of you on their bike?
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