Bike & Wheeled Recreation Safety

Transportation Safety, Injury Prevention & Safety, Info for Health Professionals

Cycling is a healthy and environmentally sustainable way for people to travel that also decreases their risk of multiple chronic illnesses through physical activity. However, people can be injured while cycling and these injuries can be severe or fatal, especially when motor vehicle drivers hit children.

It’s important to consider the child developmental and injury risk factors associated with bike and wheeled recreation.  Injuries related to bike and wheeled recreation are especially high when physical and cognitive development, environmental risks, and skill level are not appropriately managed.

Many children will be able to ride a tricycle by age 3. A tricycle that is close to the ground and with large wheels will help prevent it from tipping. Children should ride tricycles in a fenced area such as a back yard or a park; tricycles should not be used in the street or driveway. Driveways are dangerous because you may not see a child when you are pulling into or backing out of the drive. Active supervision is extremely important while your child is riding a tricycle.

Many children have the physical motor skills to ride a bicycle by age 5 or 6, but the ability to judge traffic safety risks develops much later – usually between the ages of 10 and 14. With adult supervision, children can ride safely on pathways and roads with little traffic and a low speed limit. Children under 10 should not be riding on the road without an adult. If your child is over 10, make sure that he has had lots of training and supervised practice before he rides on the road alone. Children under 1 year of age do not have the neck and head muscles to ride in a bike carrier or trailer.

Key Messages

  • In Canada, always be on the right side of the road going in the same direction as traffic. This makes you more visible to drivers and they are able to see your traffic hand signals.
  • When cycling there are several laws that must be obeyed. Failure to obey these laws can result in fines. These are the Alberta cycling laws:
    • Obey traffic signals.
    • Yield to pedestrians.
    • Use head and tail-lights when cycling in the dark.
    • Keep both feet on the pedals and carrying passengers without a passenger seat.
    • Always have reflectors on bikes.
    • Have a horn or bell on bikes.
    • Avoid distractions, such as using a cell phone while cycling.
  • When riding with children, have them follow your lead by biking single file and repeating all the hand signals you make.
  • As a motorist, ensure you give cyclists space on the road and be aware of the risk with door openings.

Be Seen

Make sure drivers can see you when it is dark or when the light is low, such as at dawn and dusk.

  • Wear lightly-toned, florescent or brightly-colored clothing.
  • Add reflective tape on your helmet, clothes, and bicycle.

Be Prepared

  • Ensure bicycles are adjusted correctly for a person’s height and get in the habit of doing a bike check before getting on, ensuring that the tires are inflated and the brakes are working properly.
  • Get trained in bicycle safety, and any other wheeled recreation activity and rules of the road.
  • Be sure to use appropriate hand signals and obey all traffic signs.
  • Parents can ask their children to show the signals for stop, right- and left-hand turns before getting on their bikes. This can be a fun quiz as you are preparing for a family bike ride.
  • Adults should remind children to always dismount their bikes when crossing the street.
  • Always wear running or cycling shoes while riding.
  • Avoid loose-fitting pants that can get tangled in your bike chain.
  • Equip your bike with a cage and water bottle that can be easily and safely accessible.

Protect Your Head: Wear a Helmet

  • Head injuries are a leading cause of death to kids on bicycles. A properly fitted and correctly worn bike helmet or the appropriate helmet for the activity you, or your child are participating in, can make a dramatic difference, cutting the risk of serious head injury by up to 60 per cent.
  • Use the 2V1 rule for helmet fitting: the front of the helmet should sit two fingers above your eyebrow, straps form a “V” under your ears, one finger space between strap and chin.