You don't have to be a hard-core bike commuter or total gear-head to enjoy a leisurely bike ride with your kids. It just takes a little more planning, and a bit of research ahead of time, to find the right configuration for your family.
No matter which safe and easy option you choose — tandem bikes, bike trailers, cargo bikes or child seats — keep these things in mind before hitting the road with your little ones.
Wait until your child is at least one year old before venturing on a family bike ride, says Kristen Gane, program manager at Safe Kids Canada, an organization that raises awareness of preventable injuries.
Helmets are legally mandated for all bike riders (that means grown-ups too!) in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and for all cyclists under 18 in Alberta and Ontario.
"You can cut the risk of a serious head injury by up to 85 percent by wearing a helmet," says Gane.
It's important to make sure you're purchasing a certified helmet — inside the helmet, look for stickers or labels that say CSA (Canadian Standards Association), ANSI (American National Standards Association), CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) or Snell.
A helmet has a life of 3 to 5 years, and should be replaced after every crash or collision (even a minor one).
While the traditional tricycle is still loved by many, the hot trend for beginning riders is a run bike or balance bike that helps children learn how to balance and steer, without pedals or training wheels. "Probably 98 percent of the kids we sell bikes to start with a run bike, at about two years old," says Dan McRorie, manager of Different Bikes in North Vancouver. Then they switch over to pedal bikes — usually without training wheels.Photo: sack/iStockphoto
Remember, your children are watching you ride, so you want to model good habits. "They know that you're supposed to stop at red lights," says Jennifer Harris, mother of three. "I'm always tempted when it's red to just go through, but with them, I stop."Photo: twilightproductions/iStockphoto
"If you're using a trailer, anything you can do to increase visibility is important," says Gane. You should always use a red or orange flag that flies at a driver's eye level, and attach lots of reflective gear. "Assume that these cars may not see your trailer, and be very careful when you're using one."Photo: Arand/iStockphoto
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