Health Blog

Bicycling Dos and Don’ts

Your child’s first vehicle is often a bicycle. Riding a bicycle is an opportunity for your child to develop a sense of accomplishment and balance, but if not ridden safely, it can also pose a risk to your child’s health. Each year “more children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport.”1 Here are some bicycling dos and don’ts to consider the next time your child asks to ride his or her bike:


  • Do teach your child to ride their bike on the right side of the road, with traffic and not against it. Remind them to ride as far to the right as possible.1
  • Do teach your child to make eye contact with drivers. Before crossing the street, your child should know that approaching drivers are paying attention.1
  • Do make sure that your child’s helmet fits and that your child knows how to put it on correctly. Use these tips to make sure that your child’s helmet is protecting him or her as it should:1,2
    • Helmets should sit on top of the head in a level position
    • Helmets should not rock forward, backward, or side to side
    • Helmets should always have straps buckled
    • Your child should be able to see the bottom rim of the helmet when looking up
    • Straps should form a “V” under your child’s ears when buckled
    • Your child should feel the helmet hug their head when they open their mouth
  • Do a safety check before a bike ride. Ensure the reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly, and tires are appropriately inflated.1
  • Do teach your child how to use proper hand signals before allowing them to ride on the street. Hand signaling allows for important communication between cyclists and motorists.1
  • Do encourage your child to ride predictably by riding in a straight line and avoiding swerving between cars.1


  • Don’t allow your child to ride on their own until you have ridden together and you are confident in his/her bicycling skills. 1
  • Don’t allow your child to wear a helmet designated for another sport (such as football). Bike helmets are made specifically to protect your child from biking-related injuries.3
  • Don’t purchase your child a bigger bicycle with the hope that your child will grow into it. When sitting on the bicycle seat, your child should be able to put the balls of both feet on the ground while holding the handlebars.3
  • Don’t allow your child to ride their bike at dusk or after dark. Riding at night requires specific skills and equipment that few young children have.3
  • Don’t allow your child to wear long or loose clothing while riding their bike.1

If your child is in need of a properly fitting helmet, please call 616.391.7233 to schedule an appointment for a $10 bike helmet. Location: Injury Prevention Program Office, Masonic Center, 233 E. Fulton, Suite 103.


Amy Hoogstra, MSN, FNP-BC

Nurse Practitioner at Ottawa Hills High School Health Center


  1. Safe Kids Worldwide. (2016). Bike safety tips, Safe Kids Worldwide. Retrieved from
  2. Gill, C.G. (2017) Bicycle injuries in children: Prevention. In: UpToDate, Post TW (Ed). Waltham, MA. (Accessed on August 11, 2017.)
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). Bicycle Safety: Myths and Facts, American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved from