If you’re cycling with the kids, here’s how to stay safe

There are plenty of options for riding around the Miami Valley. And it’s important that children (and adults) wear a helmet. CONTRIBUTED/JESSICA HANSBAUER

Schools, malls, theaters and recreation centers are all closed for the time being, but there still is plenty of fun to be had for the entire family on local bike trails.

“Nature is open, meaning while things are closed it’s important – within CDC guidelines – to spend time outdoors for your mind, body and well-being,” said Randy Ryberg, Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor recreation coordinator.

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And with more than 340 miles of paved, multi-use recreational trails, there are plenty of options for riding around the Miami Valley.

“Start out slow and plan to make lots of stops, Ryberg said. “Unless your kids are experienced riders, don’t try to get your workout ride while you’re taking your kids for a ride. Plan separate time for your exercise ride.”

While cycling lends itself well to social distancing, it’s important to follow CDC guidelines, especially when encountering cyclists from outside your immediate family unit.

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There are plenty of options for riding around the Miami Valley. And it’s important that children (and adults) wear a helmet. CONTRIBUTED/JAN UNDERWOOD

Safety first

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit organization designed to help families and communities keep kids safe from injuries, properly fitted helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by at least 45 percent – yet fewer than half of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet.

“Helmets are a must and are required by law depending on where you live,” Ryberg said. “Though not required for adults, wearing a helmet can help encourage your children to wear theirs.”

Ryberg, admittedly, has been called out by his own soon-to-be 4-year-old sons when he climbs onto his bike without a helmet.

Establishing the helmet habit early is helpful, but there are other ways to encourage it. Dayton Children’s suggests letting children pick out their own helmet, rewarding them for wearing it and talking to them about why they want to protect their head and why it’s important.

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There are plenty of options for riding around the Miami Valley. And it’s important that children (and adults) wear a helmet. CONTRIBUTED

Get started

With empty parking lots and reduced traffic, now might just be the ideal time to learn to ride.

“Riding a bicycle is an activity that can last a lifetime, so start kids young,” Ryberg said. “Starting out, find a spot to ride that doesn’t have a lot of distractions and provides plenty of space.”

A quiet road with a little bit of a hill is ideal, but any obstacle-free area with smooth pavement is a good option.

“Though it may seem intimidating for new riders, stick to smooth pavement or asphalt,” Ryberg said. “Bike tires do not roll well on grass or other soft surfaces. And, gravel can be tricky to navigate.”

Regardless of where the lessons take place, the key element, according to Ryberg, remains the same, “most importantly – be patient.”

Don’t have a bike? Not a problem, as bike shops have been designated as “essential services” under the state order so many, but not all, are open. Check with your local bike shop for hours of operation.

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There are plenty of options for riding around the Miami Valley. And it’s important that children (and adults) wear a helmet. CONTRIBUTED

Have fun

For young riders with a bit more experience and confidence, the trails are ideal. Many of the local bike trails are wider, allowing plenty of room for riders who might be challenged to maintain a straight line.

“Pick a fun destination or incorporate other experiences,” Ryberg said. “Keep in mind the social-distancing order, but riding to a hiking trail or taking a break from riding to walk can help extend your riding experience.”

It’s not about distance — it’s about creating a fun family experience.

“Start out slow, aim for shorter rides to start and don’t worry about mileage,” he said. “A 10- to 20-minute ride can raise your spirits.”

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TOP TIPS FROM SAFE KIDS WORLDWIDE

Wear a properly fitted helmet. It is the best way to prevent head injuries and death.

Ride on the sidewalk when you can. If not, ride in the same direction as traffic as far on the right-hand side as possible.

Use hand signals and follow the rules of the road. Be predictable by making sure you ride in a straight line and don't swerve between cars.

Wear bright colors and use lights, especially when riding at night and in the morning. Reflectors on your clothes and bike will help you be seen.

Ride with your children. Stick together until you are comfortable that your kids are ready to ride on their own.

HELMET FIT TEST

Eyes: Put the helmet on your head. Look up. You should see the bottom rim of the helmet.

Ears: Make sure the straps form a 'V' under your ears when buckled. The straps should be tight but comfortable.

Mouth: Open your mouth as wide as you can. Does the helmet hug your head? If not, tighten the straps.

Source: Dayton Children’s and Safe Kids Greater Dayton

10 TIPS TO GET YOUR CHILD TO WEAR A HELMET

1. Establish the helmet habit early when your child gets his or her first bike.

2. Let them pick the helmet out.

3. Wear one yourself.

4. Encourage their friends to wear helmets.

5. Talk to them about why you want them to protect their heads.

6. Give your child a short course in bike safety.

7. Point out when watching sports events how many professional athletes use helmets.

8. Reward your kids for wearing helmets.

9. Don’t let them ride their bikes unless they wear their helmets.

10. Plan bicycle outing together when all family members wear their helmets.

Source: Dayton Children’s and Safe Kids Greater Dayton

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