As National Bike Month rolls around, we’re reminded that too many cyclists currently on the road maintain bad habits on city streets. Many adult cyclists don’t wear helmets, obey traffic signs, or use reflective gear at night. Some states have bicycle safety laws that require appropriate bicycle safety behavior for children and teenagers. But as Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood writes on his blog this week, National Bike Month should encourage smart bicycle safety from the top down. If you have children, be a good “Roll Model” during May as National Bike Month.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and AAA have teamed up to sponsor the “Role Model” program, which seeks a decrease in bicycle accidents for children and adults alike. “Children look to parents for guidance, so we want kids to see mom and dad wearing a helmet, and to follow their lead,” said AAA Vice President Kathleen Marvaso. For many adult cyclists, it’s too late for a “Cinderella moment” transformation into a safe cycling. But by encouraging safe behavior among children and teenagers, the future of bicycle safety could be much brighter.
Looking at the map of bicycle safety laws nationwide, it’s clear that most states don’t require helmet use for adults, and many don’t even require helmets for children. That’s a significant problem considering the fact that helmets have been shown to be up to 85 percent effective in preventing brain injuries following bicycle accidents. If states don’t improve their safety laws, parents can encourage children to ride safe anyway. “With helmet use among bicyclists between 20-25 percent, we have an opportunity to reduce injuries and deaths by encouraging more riders to do to the same,” said Marvaso.
Of course there are a few great bicycle safety states, like California and Oregon, that have adopted laws to encourage helmet use and prohibit cycling under the influence. Following the lead of these states could make a significant dent in bicycle accident injuries and deaths nationwide.
Here in California, bicycle safety organizations are vamping up operations during National Bike Month. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, for example, is seeking volunteers for Bike to Work Day on Thursday, May 12. The event will include a “Dress-Up Challenge,” Bike Commuter Convoys, and bicycle mechanics and maintenance training. Bike to Work Day also provides an outstanding opportunity to be a “Roll Model” for children, since it connects perfectly with last month’s Bike to School Day. Parents could even consider riding their children to school on the way to work.
Photo credit: michael newton