Can you remember the excitement of returning to school in September? New class of friends, new school supplies and unlimited possibilities. It’s a great time of year - especially for young people who get to experience the freedom and independence of riding to school on a bike.
Our top 10 tips for those intrepid young cyclists who ride their bikes to school will equip young riders with the knowledge that will serve them in their biking lives for years to come.
1. Wear a helmet Nobody wants messy hair on the first day of school, but hey, that growing brain is just too important. In Nova Scotia, cyclists of all ages must wear a helmet.
As lawyers for injured cyclists we unfortunately assist many cyclists who have suffered head injuries. We encourage all riders to wear a helmet.
Be sure the helmet fits! Check out this guide.
2. Be seen & heard We always recommend a blinking red light on the back and a white blinking light on the front. On those early morning commutes to school a light can help light the way but it's also the law to have a front and back light (MVA s. 174(6)). You are also required to have white reflective tape on your front fork and red reflective tape on your rear fork.
If you reach out to us, we will send you free lights for your whole family.
You are also required to have a working bell on your bike (MVA s. 183(5)). Head to your local bike shop and find the coolest and loudest one you can!
3. Know your route Before you start riding your bike to school figure out your route in advance. Try to find a route that has separated bike lanes. Avoid high traffic intersections as much as possible.
Our friends at BikeMaps.org can help you avoid danger zones.
4. Learn the Rules of the Road In the excitement of riding you might get distracted. Remember, riding a bike is a huge responsibility. When you’re riding on the road, you are considered a vehicle by law. It's important that you learn the rules of the road and cycle defensively. This will help you stay safe but also avoid you getting pulled over by police and ticketed.
[Important note]: Children under 10 can ride on the sidewalk until they develop the skills to ride on the road with traffic, but if you want to cross a road inside a pedestrian crossover or crosswalk, you must walk your bike to the other side.
We recommend reviewing the following:
5. Bring a high quality bike lock The return to school is a prime time for bike thieves. If you don’t bring a lock, you may be walking home. Quality u-locks and chain locks offer good protection. Abus and Kryptonite have some great options. Be sure to check out your local bike shop!
6. Don’t over pack your backpack Carrying a big heavy backpack on a bike is difficult, you’re going to need your balance, so pack as light as you can.
Our teammate, Dave Shellnutt, once overpacked his bag so much he tipped over on his bike at a stop and broke his wrist. Painful and embarrassing!
7. Expect the Unexpected - Bike Defensively Being a great bike commuter means cycling defensively and anticipating danger. Always be on the lookout for motorists who are not paying attention. Even if they are not indicating a turn they may do it anyways.
Give yourself extra space on the road (don't hug the curb)
Use hand turn signals
Make eye contact with drivers, especially at intersections
Ride in a straight line
Watch for pedestrians
Be aware of how snow, rain, fallen leaves, etc. change the road conditions
Use your bell!
Watch out for parked cars and the "Dooring Zone"
8. Give yourself plenty of time It may be tempting to ride to school as fast as you can. But remember, there are many distracted drivers out there. We do not want you to feel the pressure of rushing your way to school and risking a collision.
9. Do a quick bike check the night before A basic check includes air, brakes, and chain. Make sure your bike is working and safe to ride. You don’t want a mechanical issue making you late on your first day. Learning how to repair and fix your bike is fun and will give you a great skill set you'll use for years to come!
10. Have fun See if you can make riding a daily habit. Learning to use a bike as transportation is a skill that you can use your whole life. Good luck on the return to school!