Parenting: Biking with your children

Friday, April 20, 2012
Pictured: My son Luke

Pictured: My son Luke

A few days ago, as I laced up my shoes for my daily run, my 6-year-old son, Luke, announced that he wanted to join me.

He knows he can't keep up with my running for eight miles (smart kid), but he suggested biking alongside me. I explained that this wouldn't be a leisurely jaunt (after all, I'm training for the Blue Cross Broad Street run), and that I was going to run for several hilly miles. Luke insisted.

We drove to a nearby park, where Luke could bike safely with few cars, and had a great time. The run ended up taking much longer than if I had been alone, but it was fun having him with me. Luke biked the entire route, with every hill, without any help, and I got my daily exercise.

If you're considering biking with your youngster, take the time to plan a safe route.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children younger than 10-years-old should not ride in the street. NHTSA says kids that young are not mature enough to make the sorts of decisions that road users must make to be safe.

In contrast, according to an article on, the late bicycling writer Ken Kifer said "children ages 6 and 11 should be allowed to ride on residential streets and given gradually increasing responsibility and freedom to roam. Consider your child's maturity level and the traffic level of the streets adjacent to your home when deciding whether to allow your child to ride on the street. Note that some jurisdictions limit or prohibit bicycle riding on the sidewalk."

NHTSA recommends all children wear helmets while riding their bicycles. "Helmets should fit snugly and not be bought in a larger size for the child to grow into. A loose helmet is an ineffective helmet. The helmet should sit no more than one or two finger widths above the child's eyebrows. Be aware that some jurisdictions also have laws requiring children to wear helmets."

Teach kids the basic hand signals at a young age. Left arm held straight out means left turn and held straight out with the forearm pointing up means right turn. Kids' bikes should also have a bell or horn to alert people they approach on the sidewalk or in the street.

Also dress your child appropriately for the weather conditions. Light layers often work in spring weather, so your child can shed a layer or two as they get warmer. This morning, Luke announced he wanted to join me for my work out again. We did the same route, but this time, five minutes faster. It's the same route I used to jog pregnant while with Luke and then later while pushing him in the baby jogger.

Today, he announced that, when he gets older, he wants to run with me and try to beat me. I can't wait.

Happy Parenting! Cecily

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