Assessing Age Appropriateness for Unaccompanied Child Bicyclists

In recognition of the high incidence rate of bicycling accidents involving children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Chicago, the bike injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. discuss the important issue of transitioning a child from an adult-accompanied bicyclist, to one that is capable of traveling unsupervised. First and foremost, it is important to remember that children bicyclists generally do not possess the same level of mental capacity and maturity as adult cyclists, which can put them at much higher risk for an accident, particularly when traveling along Chicago’s busy roadways. Consequently, it is critical that parents have the ability to properly assess whether a child is of an age and maturity level that will allow the child to safely navigate a bicycle on a public roadway.

While we can neither prevent nor predict the actions of another, parents can take measures to ensure that their child’s own actions, put them at the least risk possible for accident or injury. Accordingly, bicycling safety should always begin in the home. The bicycle collision lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. provide some suggestions and resources on properly educating your child on bike safety, in preparation for the child’s transition to an unaccompanied bicyclist.

A good starting point, before a child ever ventures out onto a roadway, is teaching the child how to correctly care for and maintain a bicycle. The NHTSA’s Parent Central offers information on bicycle safety , and suggests that parents tell their children to “Remember the ABC’s,” with ‘A’ representing air in tires; ‘B’ representing brakes; and ‘C’ representing chain. The child should also recognize when the seat may need adjustment, and know the proper way to adjust it. In addition, the child should be able to demonstrate the ability and willingness to perform a general inspection of the bike, looking out for broken or missing components, before each and every time they ride.

Another consideration for parents, is the child’s to demonstrate to you, on a consistent basis, that they are aware of, and will abide by basic safety principles. For example, the child should know that they are required to wear a helmet at all times while riding a bicycle and be willing to wear it, as well as know how to appropriately secure and adjust the helmet. Children should also be instructed to keep both hands on the handlebars (except when using arm signals to communicate with motorists); look both ways before crossing or entering a roadway; and have a general awareness of their surroundings.

Beyond responsible bike ownership and basic safety principles of biking, the child also needs to be educated on two additional key areas of safety: (1) how to handle or react in a particular situation; and (2) the rules and regulations pertaining to bicyclists. Children should be instructed on the safe and proper manner of riding on a sidewalk, including politely passing pedestrians, carefully approaching alleys and driveways, maintaining awareness of the potential for dooring accidents , as well as safely entering and crossing intersections.

It is also important for parents to educate their child in a manner that they are able to understand. For children, certainly providing them with a list of Illinois statutes or Chicago ordinances pertaining to bicycling , would likely be an ineffective method. Fortunately, there are a number of kid-friendly resources that can parents can use to provide their children with the information necessary to allow them bike safely. The City of Chicago, in conjunction with the CDOT, has created a pamphlet entitled, Kids on Bikes in Chicago, which provides an illustrated guide to teach children about safe bicycling practices. For younger kids, an animated video, activity book, safety pledge, and other resources can be accessed by clicking here.

Parents must remember that determining whether your child is mature enough to bicycle unaccompanied by an adult, will depend on the individual circumstances of a particular child. However, a good indicator of preparedness is whether the child can sufficiently demonstrate responsible bike ownership, safe riding practices, and obeisance to bicycling rules and regulations. Further, and perhaps most critical in protecting your child from accident and injury is ensuring that your child fully recognizes the dangers of sharing roadways with motorists in Chicago. Our Bicycle Collision attorneys encourage parents to make sure that their child understands they can never assume that all motorists will operate their vehicle in a proper, reasonable, or lawful manner.

If your child was injured or killed in while riding a bike in Chicago, contact the Bicycle Accident Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. to schedule a Free Personal Injury Consultation and discuss your legal rights and options

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