Tykes on Bikes: Keeping Them Safe

Boy on BikeAs a resident doctor, I cared for an eight year old boy named Kyle. Kyle had been riding his bike when a police officer stopped him for not wearing a helmet. After a stern warning, Kyle made sure to wear his helmet the following day, and that was the day that his bike was struck by a car. He suffered significant injuries and had a long road to recovery, but his bike helmet saved his life.

Riding a bike is a great way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. However, precautions need to be taken to minimize the risk of serious injury or death. Most importantly, helmets must be worn at all times while on a bike.

Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveals that 91% of bicyclists killed in 2009 were not wearing helmets. Parents should model good behavior by always wearing their helmet when biking. Children in bike seats and bicycle-towed trailers also require helmets, and kids under one year of age should not ride along because they do not have the neck strength required to wear a helmet.

Young children should only be carried on bikes by adult passengers, and preferably on bike paths or quiet streets, in good weather, and at reduced speeds. There is no consensus as to whether a rear-mounted seat or a trailer is safer for children, and each has its own set of specific risks. Parents should check with the manufacturer of these devices to determine the ages at which they are safe to use.

Older children who ride bikes must wear a helmet with every bike ride and know the rules of the road. They should ride in the same direction as traffic, and they should use appropriate hand signals to show their intended actions. Kids who can not use hand signals without swerving or falling should not ride in the street. Children should not bike at dusk or after dark.

More information on bike safety can be found at the following websites:

The Kohl’s Safety Center, located on the first floor of the American Family Children’s Hospital, offers $10 helmets for bicyclists aged 1 year through adult. Learn more about the Kohl’s Safety Center




  • We really enjoy biking to the farmer’s market – both downtown and our neighborhood. Then we usually stop at a park on the way home.

  • We live on the West side of Madison, close to the Howard Termin Lakeshore path. This is our favorite path to ride on to get to campus and downtown. We have also really enjoyed biking the Ride the Drive. Riding under the Monona Terrace tunnel is the best! We love it that Madison has so many bike paths.

  • My family typically like to just ride. As long as my boys are able to ride they are just fine. They will ride around the neighborhood or even on the local biking trail. Most of all we all remember to wear a bike helmet!

  • We have started biking much more this year. We bought our daughter a tandem bike that attaches to Dad’s bike and our son rides in a seat on the back of mine. We take long bike rides all over town, staying on the roads with less traffic. We also like to ride on the area bike trails to stay away from traffic. Our daughter also like to ride in the middle school parking lot and around the track when she is riding her own bike.

  • When I was younger I would ride my bike into town everyday during the summer. I never wore a helmet I didn’t think that I ever needed one. When I had my son I was so excited to get a bike trailer and ride my bike again. Before we even went on our first ride I bought myself and my son a helmet at the Kohl’s Safety Center when they were doing there Easter helmet special. I make sure that he wears his helmet all the time, even when my son is riding his scooter I make sure he has him helmet on. It bothers me to the core when I see kids on their bikes not wearing helmets and flying down hills and around corners in the middle of the road not looking where they are going. Thanks again!!!

  • Our favorite place to bike is on the friendship trail.

  • We are new to the area, but really want to try the Wild Goose State Trail!

  • Riding the Wild Goose State Bike Trail from the Horicon Marsh to Fond du lac! Great trail!

  • Tracy Biodrowski

    Our family likes to ride the bike trails in DeForest/Windsor.

  • In the park.

  • We like to ride our bikes on the Indian Springs bike trail. Sometimes we see wildlife–deer, turkeys, etc. and we don’t have to worry about crossing a lot of streets.

  • This is a good reminder to get my kids in for a helmet check and fitting.

  • Marty Gustafson

    Our favorite bike spot is Peninsula State Park. The trails are well maintained and there are great stops for the kids along the way, such as the nature center, lighthouse, beach, or lookout tower!

  • Our favorite place to ride a bike is out on a country road. There are so many things to see and show my son about nature.

  • We enjoy riding almost anywhere. We live in a medium sized town and can bike just about anywhere…We have numerous park areas and generally not a lot of traffic.

  • My family rides on our quiet rural road, it’s only a 1/2 mile, but it connects to 2 other quiet roads,perfect for a slow casual ride.

  • It’s especially frustration to see adults on the Bike Paths and elsewhere without helmets.

  • Lakeshore Path with a stop at the Memorial Union!

  • I would LOVE to do the trails on Hwy 23 towards Sheboygan – I think that is Hwy 23 anyways. I know this isn’t a ‘where you’d like’ but still!

  • We ride the Upper Yahara River Trail in DeForest.

  • We take evening bike rides every day as a family. But when we venture out further, we love to take the bike path into our forest preserve and ride through the woods!

  • We love riding anywhere just enjoying nature. It is really fun riding on the 400 Trail near Reedsburg, WI. I work with the Summer Outdoor Adventure Club where we take kids on trips around Wisconsin biking, kayaking/canoeing, hiking, and camping. One requirement when on a bike is that the help be on and snapped at all times. No riding without the helmet.

  • The Conservancy!!! Oldest bikes along with us, and the 2 littles get a ride in the Burley. Question: do the littles need to wear a helmet in the Burley?

  • Beth Ann Dellabella

    Just cruising the neighborhood. Love riding along the trail of Lake Michigan in Manitowoc to Two Rivers, WI.

  • The trails in Green County are wonderful. We bike from Monticello to New Glarus on the Sugar River Trail, usually stopping for treats at Culver’s along the way.

  • We love going through NYC’s parks.

  • We just go bike riding through our neighborhood

  • We like to ride our bikes to the nearby park or to the swimming pool which is also close to our house.

  • to menonomonee park to swim

  • We bike on the trails by the Parkway

  • trails that are by the historical areas are great.

  • local trails are great.

  • The CB trail in Neenah.

  • We love to ride our bikes in the park. It’s so peaceful!

  • Besides biking to/from the local park, we have explored our extended neighborhood and the kids and I have made our own route – complete with a huge hill at the end (downhill), as well as shorter/longer options depending on how much time we have.

  • Madison has so many amazing trails, but our favorite is along wingra. We usually stop for a quick visit at the zoo or have a picnic at Vilas Beach.

  • We love riding to the farmers’ market & putting our purchases in our bike panniers for a healthy treat when we get home.

  • We like riding our bikes to the library, because there is a park right close by with great biking trails along the river!