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Biking with Young Children: When to Start, How to Stay Safe

As the weather starts warming up this spring, many of you will be heading outdoors with your children. I encourage you to get out and ride bikes as a family. There are so many trails to explore and neighborhoods to enjoy. While I want you to have fun on your rides, I promote doing so safely to prevent injury.

I often see soft tissue, dental, abdominal, and straddle injuries in my pediatric practice, along with concussions related to bicycle riding.

When parents ask me about cycling with their children, I encourage them to look up specific manufacturers’ recommendations regarding safe riding with bike trailers and child carriers. There are many products, and each has been tested and rated for different age groups.

Most three-year-olds start to ride a tricycle, and even younger children are mastering the two-wheeled pedal-free bicycles. Between ages four and serve, most children learn to ride a two-wheeler.

The most important thing to emphasize is that kids need to wear a helmet on every bike ride on all rides. This starts with the parents setting a good example. If your kids see you wear a helmet, it will be the norm that they will follow. Besides helmets, I recommend hard-soled shoes and shoes covering toes to prevent foot, toe, and nail injuries. Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses!

Once children are 5- or 6-years-old, you can teach them about riding safely around cars. Helping kids learn the difference between “left” and “right” is essential for them to ride on the right side of the street with traffic. This takes time and effort from parents, as children do not anticipate driver behavior well. It is important to teach the concept of staying alert and looking around, stopping at all intersections, and looking both ways before proceeding forward.

I encourage you to get out and explore all that this area has to offer. Riding bikes as a family is a great way to enjoy being outdoors, experiencing a sense of adventure, and exercising with your kids.

If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend visiting The American Academy of Pediatrics website for parents, HealthyChildren.org.

Dr-James-Gottlieb-Medical-Center-PediatricsJim Gottlieb, MD, FAAP
Pediatrician at Boulder Medical Center

As a board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Gottlieb enjoys getting to know each child and their family. “I love offering continuity of care and a medical home to my patients,” he says. He is welcoming new patients to his practice in Boulder and Longmont, Colorado.