Educating Children Aged 13 to 17

Cycling with more independence carries with it what can feel like a burden of greater responsibility. Cyclists hitting their teenage years are probably ready to cycle further and faster—they may be exploring bike racing, touring, or trail riding. But even though the teenage cyclist's skills and interests may have changed dramatically, they should be reminded that the rules of the road remain the same.

A great lesson for the teenage cyclist is to learn to treat his or her newfound responsibility and freedom as a privilege, rather than a hindrance. Risky behaviors put cyclists at the mercy of motor vehicles; teen cyclists should by all means enjoy the ride, but always keep their movements visible and predictable.

Cautions

A bike is no match for a 5,000 pound vehicle. Most teenagers will learn to drive a car and get their driver's license. When they do, it's important they don't forget what it's like to be a cyclist. Emphasize that cyclists in this age group shouldn't let the newfound freedom of driving get in the way of common sense; to avoid injury or worse, it's vital that as a motorist and as a cyclist, they should act safely and share the road.

Tools and Skills

Teach the teenage cyclist to continue to work on good riding skills: performing panic stops, and riding in the winter and in inclement weather.

Teach teen cyclists about off road and trail bicycling.

Teach this age group the most important traffic laws for bicyclists. Explain different crashes—typical scenarios and crash types, and how to steer clear of them.

Although it's not recommended for anyone to ride at night, show teenage cyclists how to be prepared if they ever do:

  • Use proper lights. Blinking red brake lights are better than stationary ones. A bright white headlight is highly recommended and even required in some states.
  • Wear retro-reflective clothing: reflectors can be worn on ankles, retro-reflective stickers can be affixed to bags or backpacks, and retro-reflective jackets and vests are available.

Emphasize the importance of wearing a helmet. Although helmets might not have seemed so dorky when they were younger, teenagers are likely to be tempted not to wear helmets. Tell them to think about how uncool brain damage is. Wearing a good-fitting helmet properly properly reduces a cyclist's risk of major injury and/or fatality by as much as 88%.

Explain that it is extremely useful and wise to brush up on bicycling safety fundamentals when a teenager moves to a city or college where he or she may not have a car and will be using a bike as a major mode of transportation.

Bicycle Safer Journey

Bicycle Safer Journey helps educators, parents and others who care about bicycle safety to get the conversation started with children and youth. Three videos — one for each of three age groups: 5-9, 10-14 and 15-18 — accompanied by a quiz or discussion and an educator's resource library can be used as an introduction to bicycle safety skills or to augment a comprehensive curriculum.

The age-appropriate videos, which are available in English and Spanish, address picking the safest places to bicycle and the importance of being alert.

Links