Since I’m an avid bike rider who often rides to work at CMEE, I was very proud to witness my four-year-old son riding his pedal bicycle for the first time last month. Unlike other developmental milestones such as walking, opening a door or putting on shoes, riding a bike brings him palpable joy. Since I didn’t learn to ride until I was seven, I was especially impressed with my son, Bennett’s physical agility and confidence on the bike. After I sent a video of Bennett to my family, my father asked if he had crashed into a mailbox like I had during my first ride on a two-wheeler. “No,” I responded, “Bennett was fortunate to have a much better cycling teacher.”
I think the real reason my son mastered a pedal bike much earlier is that he’s been riding a balance bike for the past year while I rode for years with training wheels. If you’ve never heard of a balance bike, it’s a two-wheeler without pedals or training wheels. Since they don’t have any kind of stabilizers, these “running bikes” force kids to make the dozens of innate adjustments necessary to keep the bike upright while moving it forward in a specific direction. Once they’re completely confident on the balance bike, it’s just a matter of encouraging kids to push against pedals rather than running on the ground.
In addition to becoming a big balance bike enthusiast, I am a zealot about kids (and grownups) wearing helmets when they ride. According to the Federal Highway Administration, almost 80% percent of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries. Even though copious evidence shows that bike helmets decrease the risk of injury, only 18% of bicyclists wear them regularly. Since I always ride with a helmet, my children – even my two year old – eagerly wear theirs, too. I tell them, “wearing a helmet helps us protect our moneymakers!”
We have a great bike rack at CMEE that doesn’t get nearly enough use so please consider riding to the Museum! If you have any bike safety tips particularly for kids, please share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.