Gear Up for National Bicycle Month!
Celebrate Bike Month with a ride to school or anywhere your two wheels take you.
By Tara Naughter
May is National Bicycle Month in the United States; including Bike to Work Week from May 16-20, and the first ever Bike to School Day on May 9, 2012.
The First-Ever National Bike to School Day
The National Center for Safe Routes to School and the League of American Bicyclists together have organized May 9th as a day for communities across the country to leave the cars behind and bike to school. To celebrate this fun day, schools and individuals can register to be a “Bike to School Day Pioneer” at the event’s website.
Why Bike to School?
Riding a bicycle is a wonderful way for children to stay physically active and enjoy being outdoors. Other benefits include increased balance, strength, and flexibility.
There is also a level of environmental awareness, as riding a bike emits zero toxins. According to this website, riding to school rather than driving reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 20 pounds per day, or 4,800 pounds in a year. Another interesting fact found on this site is that the energy and materials used to manufacture one automobile could be used to build one-hundred bicycles.
It is important that a child is fitted to a bike of the right size for their body weight and height, as well as for the proper safety helmet. A good rule of thumb to follow when fitting a child to a helmet is the fit should be low on the forehead, two fingers above his or her eyebrows. The young rider should be able to look up and see the helmet. Wearing bright or reflective clothing is also a good protocol to follow as this will help make the rider more visible to motorists. Riding at night can be dangerous. Therefore, installing a bike light can be useful for visibility, as well as having a responsible adult accompany the rider. Riding a bicycle carries a sense of responsibility to safety, so this requires having an awareness of what is happening ahead of you and around you at all times. Young riders should be careful and understand the rules of the road. They should ride on a sidewalk if available, and if not, ride in the direction of traffic. It is vital to stop at all stop signs as well as red lights, and yield to pedestrians. Another good rule to follow is to not ride too closely to parked vehicles, as a car door can suddenly open at any time and possible injury a young rider. Following traffic rules and walking a bike across a busy intersection is also a safe move. A responsible adult rider, or walker, should accompany the new bicyclist to help him or her gain an understanding of the rules of the road and riding safety.
Skill, Practice, and the ABCs
It is important to practice riding skills with a child in quiet area with little traffic, such as an empty parking lot. Through practice, a young rider will gain confidence, skill, and an overall understanding of the feeling of momentum on two wheels.
Before heading out on a bike, a young rider should check the ABCs: Air in the tires, Breaks, and Chain.
Learners explore the concept of how brakes can stop or slow mechanical motion. They examine the operation of a bicycle brake and use low cost materials to devise a simple braking system. Finally, they work as a team to suggest improvements to current bicycle brake designs.