Back to School bike safety tips

If your child is riding their bike to school this year, make sure you give it the once over first to make sure it's safe.

Professor Steve Stannard.

For many parents, this week heralds the return to getting the kids ready for school and sitting in cars in traffic for the drop off and pick up. But in some households, cycling will be the preferred way to get to school for New Zealand children. So what do you need to do to keep them safe on the roads?

Professor Steve Stannard from Massey’s School of Sport and Exercise is working with the New Zealand Transport Agency to highlight Bike Wise month – an annual programme encouraging Kiwis to get on their bikes. He’s no stranger to cycling, having previously held the position of a National Road Cycling Development Coach for a number of years, and represented Australia as a road-racing cyclist.

So here are some top tips from Professor Stannard on how to help keep your children safe when they put their wheels in motion this year.

If the bike hasn’t been ridden over the summer, make sure it’s safe to ride.

- Ensure the tyres are pumped up to their proper pressure.

- Check for glass, splits, bulges, or excessive wear in the tyres.

- Make sure the brakes are working and replace any worn brake pads and clean the wheel rims.

- Make sure the reflector on the back is clean so it can be seen.

Check that the drivetrain (all the bits you use to move the bike along) is clean and lubricated.

- The chain should not be black with greasy grime, nor should it look ultra shiny. Chains and gears last longer if they are clean, but lightly oiled.  

- If it’s dirty, get rags and run the chain through your hand while clutching the rag to get the dirt off. If it’s REALLY dirty, put turpentine on the rag to help remove the grime, and use a toothbrush to get into the links.

- Once it’s clean, get some light oil (from a bike shop, or substitute sewing machine oil), and put one small drop on each link.

- If you’re not mechanically minded, take the bike to a cycle shop for service, but give it a good clean with soapy water and a sponge first. 

It seems that many children do much of their growing over the summer break, which means seat heights may need adjustments for safety, comfort, and ease of pedaling.  

- Make sure your child can just put the tip of their toes on the ground while on the seat and that when standing over the crossbar with feet flat, there are a few inches to spare. 

- If you do raise the seat, check the seat post is not extended past its maximum height. If it is, you need to buy a bigger bike!

- Heads grow as well as legs, so make sure your child’s helmet still fits and is in good shape. If it’s cracked, or the straps are not working properly, if it’s too loose or too tight, get another helmet. Spending a bit of money here is worth its weight in gold and may save your kid’s life!

- If you do need to upgrade your child’s bike, shop around. Don’t buy online, new or secondhand, unless you really know what you’re doing. It can be a tricky business getting it right, and isn’t worth the risk.

If your child has changed schools, spend time working out a safe route early on.

-  Drive the school route with your kids in the car before their first day. 

-  If you’re smart, even in a busy city, you can usually work out a route that has very little traffic by favouring back streets and bike paths.

-  Wherever you can, avoid roads where the speed limit is more than 50km per hour.  

Make sure your child wears a bright backpack.

- It doesn’t matter what colour, but brown, grey, and black are harder for motorists to see.

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