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Mamas, don’t let your babies ride bikes without helmets

Life in the Bike Lane column
By: Tom Frady
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I don’t understand why bike riders don’t wear helmets.  A friend with whom I used to ride didn’t want to mess up her hair. I pointed out it was 5:30 at night on a Tuesday and she didn’t have a date. 

Upon seeing an obviously experienced cyclist whiz by without a helmet, I have queried my buddies. They don’t know why, either.

Fortunately, many helmets for little kids come with ears, horns, hair and great superhero or princess graphics to make them more desirable.  If I was just 65 years younger, I’d want one.

But tweens and teens are hard cases. In California, if you are under 18, you must wear a helmet when riding a bike. But seldom does a day go by that we don’t see some 13 year old riding with no hands, against traffic, with at least one ear bud in, texting, wearing dark clothes and not wearing a helmet.  Sometimes, the helmet is hanging on the handlebars.

This is in sharp contrast to the group with which I ride: a bunch of old guys in helmets, bright clothes, blinking lights fore and aft and a good knowledge of cycling laws.

With apologies to Willie Nelson, mamas, don’t let your babies ride bikes without helmets and don’t let them use their phones while riding and tell them to follow the laws.

We tend to think of cycling accidents as being car versus bike. Of course, some are. But much more common with kids are the slow-motion falls, the running-into-the-curb bumps and the getting-tangled-up-with-sister’s-bike crash.  Heads can hit the pavement in even the most minor incident.

I love seeing families riding on our many bike paths or in quiet neighborhoods.  I hate seeing the parents setting a poor example by riding without a helmet and in flip flops.

To tell the truth, I don’t know whether bicycle law and safety is part of the elementary/middle school curriculum. It should be. I know there are some special events, such as “Bike Rodeos,” but not all kids attend them.

Parents should talk to their children just as they would talk to a teenager about to take the family car for the first time. The rules for the bike rider are always wear your helmet, never use your phone (or any other distraction) while riding, no headphones, obey traffic laws (including riding with traffic and stopping at stop signs) and ride as far to the right of the road as safe (in most areas, children are allowed to ride on the sidewalk). 

Let me say it again. Parents, talk to your kids about bike riding. Make it clear that you expect them to wear helmets. Set an example by wearing yours.  Make it clear they will not text or talk on the phone while riding. Set an example by not using your phone when you drive. Make it clear that they must always obey traffic laws and go over the laws with them. If you are unsure, there are many publications available at the California Highway Patrol, Department of Motor Vehicles and online. Set an example by obeying all laws when you drive.

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.