Bicycle Safety, Children Ages One to Four Years

Each year in New York State (NYS), over 800 children ages one to four years are treated at a hospital because of a bicycle-related injury; 23 of them are injured severely enough to require hospitalization.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing bicycle-related injuries.

What are the most important ways to keep my child safe while riding a bicycle?

Make sure you and your child always:

  • Follow the rules of the road.

What bicycle safety "rules of the road" should I teach my child?

  • Children under the age of four should not ride their bicycles in the street because they do not have enough experience and handling skills to navigate safely around other traffic.
  • Children under the age of four should ride on the sidewalk or on bicycle baths separated from motor vehicle traffic.

What NYS bicycle laws should I know about?

NYS law requires that all children under the age of 14 wear an approved bicycle helmet. The maximum penalty for an offense is a $50 fine; however, the fine is waived if the parent proves a helmet was obtained.

How effective are bicycle helmets in preventing bicycle-related head injuries?

When fitted properly, bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by 85 percent and traumatic brain injuries by 88 percent. Because of their proven effectiveness, NYS encourages people of all ages to wear a helmet while they ride a bicycle.

Where can I buy a helmet for my child?

Chain retail, sporting goods and specialty bicycle stores sell bicycle helmets.

How much should I expect to pay for a bicycle helmet?

  • The cost of a bicycle helmet is about $20.00.
  • There are many low-cost helmet distribution programs in NYS that can be found by calling your local health department.

How do I know I am buying the right helmet for my child?

All bicyclists should wear helmets designed and approved for bicycle riding.

  • As of March 2000, all bicycle helmets sold in the United States are required to meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) standard for bicycle helmets. Each helmet meeting this standard will display a CPSC sticker.
  • Multi-sport helmets that meet the CPSC standard for bicycle helmets are also appropriate for bicycle use.
  • Helmets designed for other uses such as motorcycling or snowmobile riding should never be used for bicycle riding. They may cause riders to be off balance or interfere with their vision, in turn causing a fall.

How do I know if the helmet fits my child properly?

  • Helmets are often labeled by age or head measurement, but use these only as a guideline. Children's heads are many different sizes and shapes, so they must try it on and sometimes make adjustments to ensure it fits properly.
  • The helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position and not be tilted back on the head. The helmet front rim should rest approximately two fingers width above the eyebrow and should be barely visible to the rider's eye.
  • Straps should be adjusted for a snug, comfortable fit. No more than two fingers should fit between the helmet strap and the chin. Teach your child to always keep the straps buckled when riding.

What other tips can I use to keep my child safe when riding their bike?

Make sure your child:

  • Has a bicycle that is in good working order:
    • Tires have adequate air
    • Brakes are in good working order
    • The chain is well-oiled and secure
    • Does not ride at dusk or at night if he/she is between the ages of one and four years. It is hard for him/her to see hazards and for other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to see them.
    • Does not wear loose fitting, long pants as they can get caught in the bicycle chain and cause a fall.

Where can I find more information about bicycle safety?