Kids line up to take part in the bike rodeo downtown on Saturday. The rodeo was run by Skookum this year as the RCMP takes its rodeo straight to the schools.

Parents key to kids bike safety, say the experts

Parents role a "show stopper" when it comes to kids bike safety, says bike safety educator Bruce Mol.

Bruce Mol knows a thing or two about cycling. He’s biked across Canada, taught courses on bicycle safety, chaired the Greater Vernon Cycling Advisory Committee, written articles about cycling, was named Cycling BC’s volunteer of the year in 1994, and more.  He’s also going to be teaching a course on bike safety skills in Revelstoke as part of Bike to Work Week.

In short, he knows what he’s talking about. When I started to work on this article about bike education for kids, I gave him a call. My first question was, what’s the most important thing when it comes to bike safety for kids.

“The most important things for kids is for parents to understand the real dangers of safety with regards to cycling,” he told me.

There’s lots of information for parents out there, he added, but the problem is that it doesn’t get through to them.

He listed some examples. At one course he taught in Vernon, one youngster said his parents told him to bike on the wrong side of the street. “That’s such a bad thing to do,” Mol said. “Such a bad thing to do.”

Then there was the bike rodeo he put on, where two kids had their front brakes disassembled so they wouldn’t go over the handlebars.

“In the cycling course I see and hear a real lack of understanding by parents,” he said.

For Mol, the key is to have parents and children ride together and have parents act as mentors, giving tips and telling them what’s appropriate and inappropriate.

Kids have issues on bikes. For one, they don’t have the same awareness of traffic that comes with driving experience. And, because they’re small, cars can’t see them as well.

They also have bad habits, such as riding on the sidewalk or expecting cars to stop for them like when they’re walking.

For Mol, the parents role is “a show stopper.”

“One of the wonderful things about bicycles is you can learn at a really young age to ride them but parents don’t invest a lot of time doing the rules of the roads,” he said.

In Revelstoke, the RCMP will be focusing their bike safety course on the schools. They did not take part in the bike rodeo this summer, but instead will be going into each elementary school to give lessons.

“Our course consists of hand signals, how safe your bike is, what to do with parked vehicle – a whole bunch of things,” said Const. Gary McLaughlin, who along with the RCMP auxiliaries, organizes the program. “What we’re trying to do is show them you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times.”

Two major issues he identified were kids riding on sidewalks, which is illegal; and kids not wearing helmets.

As well, kids need to be aware that when they’re on the road, they need to look out for both moving vehicles and parked cars. Of course, they also have to remember they’re treated like a vehicle and need to follow the rules of the road.

“If you blow a stop sign, it’s $167,” McLaughlin said.

The other side of the coin is to get motorists to look out for cyclists and have them realize that cyclists have the same right to the road as they do.

This year, there will also be a focus on off-road safety, in light of the tragic accident last year when a Columbia Park Elementary student lost his life after going off a dirt jump. “We’re going to say don’t do it,” said McLaughlin. “Can you stop people from doing it? No. But if you’re going to do it, have a helmet on, have safety equipment on, do it in a safe spot, don’t jump off curves into traffic.”

 

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