Though there is a strong connection between bikes and childhood, a bicycle is not a toy; it is a child’s first vehicle, and an important step on the path to independence. Bicycles are fun to ride, but they are also legally considered vehicles, and should be taken seriously by all riders. In selecting their bicycle, a child will often focus on colour and looks, but fit and style are important considerations. For children and adults to cycle safely they must have the proper equipment, the skills to ride confidently and knowledge of road safety rules related to the route they plan to ride.
Safe cycling facts
- Bicycles need front and rear lights at dawn, dusk and night. They should always have reflectors attached at the front, back and the sides of the bicycle, along with horn or a bell.
- Generally, children under 9 or 10 years of age lack the perception and decision-making skills to be safe on road cyclists; they should not ride on busy collector or arterial roads without adult supervision.
- School age children and their families should consider bike skills safety courses. Cyclists should only ride on streets with traffic when they feel comfortable doing this.
- Route planning is essential. Plan a bicycle route that includes safe crossing points at busy collector or arterial streets, and try to choose a route that primarily includes quiet residential streets and bike paths.
Rules for cycling safely on the road
- Always wear a helmet when riding. In BC, it is the law to wear a helmet. Wear it at all times with straps firmly fastened.
- Obey traffic rules — bikes and cars obey the same rules.
- Keep to the right, ride single file in a straight line, and always with the traffic.
- Shoulder check. Look all ways, right then left shoulder check, and signal before turning or stopping.
- Turn with care. Most crashes occur at intersections. Look and listen before proceeding, perform hand signal, and obey all traffic signs and lights.
- Beware of parked cars. Pass parked cars with caution. Leave adequate distance to prevent being hit if a car door opens or a vehicle pulls out into the traffic lane.
- Beware of roadway hazards. Stop and look all ways before entering a roadway, driveway or alley. Try to make eye contact with the driver. When weather conditions are poor, slow down, apply brakes earlier and be extra careful. Avoid riding over potholes, cracks and railroad tracks.
- Pedestrians have the right of way. Ride slowly and yield to pedestrians when riding on paths or walkways. Walk bike in crosswalks.
- Be visible. Equip bike with front and rear lights and a red rear reflector. Wear light-coloured or reflective clothing.
- Avoid heavy traffic. Plan your route to use bike paths and less heavily travelled streets. Avoid high-volume traffic or high-speed roadways until you have developed the necessary safe cycling skills.
- Ride safely. Don’t weave, race or stunt-ride in traffic, or carry large bundles.
- Don’t carry a passenger on a one-seated bicycle.
- Never tow or pull anybody with a bike, unless using equipment specifically made for safe towing (e.g., trailer).
- Keep both hands on the handlebars unless signalling.
- If passing a cyclist, look behind for approaching traffic and use a bell, horn or voice to indicate passing.
Bicycle safety equipment
The proper equipment for safe cycling includes:
A helmet that:
- Meets Snell, ASTM, CPSA or CSA standards. Look for the certification sticker inside the helmet.
- Fits properly. A good bicycle shop or bike safety expert should help with the fit of the helmet.
- Is secured squarely on the top of the head covering the top of the forehead, and does not slant forward or backward. Straps should be firmly fastened but still comfortable.
A bicycle in good repair. To ensure that a bicycle is safe to ride, make sure that:
- The brakes are in working order.
- The tires are inflated properly.
- The wheels are straight and securely attached.
- There are no loose items on the bicycle or on the rider that might get caught in the spokes or pedals.
How to ensure that cycling is a safe experience for your family
- Make sure the bike is working properly so that it can be operated safely. Do the brakes work? Are the wheels inflated properly? Does anything need adjusting?
- Make sure the bike the right size. Children should be able to straddle the bike with both feet flat on the ground; the seat should be at hip height when standing beside the bike; beginners should be able to put both feet on the ground while sitting on the seat.
- Ensure that the bike has an operating bell, rear red light or reflector, and a white front light and reflectors (for riding at twilight, at night and in poor weather conditions).
- Model and teach safe cycling practices to your children: make sure to ride on the right side of the road with the traffic, come to a full stop at stop signs, use proper signalling, shoulder check, and wear a fastened helmet.
- Visit bikesense.bc.ca for detailed bicycle safety information.
Bicycle safety resources for teachers and parents
- ICBC has great resources for educators and students on road safety.
- Bikes Not Bombs Earn-A-Bike training manual has a module on Bike Safety (PDF, 262 KB).
- The Canada Safety Council maintains a website on Bike Safety.
- The Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition’s BIke Sense manual is an excellent resource for learing about safe and effective cycling. An online version of the manual is also available.
- The following Bicycle Skills and Safety Instructors provide valuable information and references on their websites:
Bicycle Safety Links
- Bicycle Related Injuries – injury prevention tips from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Cycling Regulations, Restrictions & Rules of the Road – Cycling related laws in BC
- Bicycle Rules and Safety – general information on how to be safe on the road.
- Interactive Bicycle Safety – online bicycle safety information.
Bike Riding Safety Tips
- Bicycle Riding Tips – safety tips for riding bikes in the city.
- Bike Safety Tips and Statistics – information and suggestions on how to ride safely.
- Bike Safety – parents guide to bike safety for the family.
- Bike Safety Tips – information and recommendations on how to ride bikes safely.
Safe Bike Equipment
- Bicycle Safety Equipment – outlines the equipment needed for safe biking.
- Safe Biking Tips – tips on how to use bicycles safely.
- Bike Helmet Information – Cornell guide with information about bike helmets and usage.
- Information on Bike Helmets – sizing information along with why it is important to have a properly fitting helmet.
Bike Safety for Kids
- Bicycle Safety is No Accident – information for kids on bicycle safety.
- Kids and Bicycle Safety – PDF on bike safety for kids.
- Teaching Children Bicycle Safety – information on how to teach bike safety to children.