Safety Walking and Biking Tips

  • Walking and Biking to School: How to Keep Kids Safe

    Walking and bike riding are healthy ways to get to and from school. Skipping the school drop-off traffic for more active commutes can contribute to the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity kids need each day. 

    Trips powered by feet, rather than gas-fueled vehicles, can also reduce air pollution and help the climate. This, in turn, can reduce breathing problems and other health issues in children. Walking can also help make neighborhoods friendlier places.

    Here's what parents need to know to keep kids safe as they walk or bike to school or somewhere else in the community. 


    Walking to school

    Keep these tips in mind when walking with your young child to and from school.

    • When crossing streets, hold your child's hand and always observe the traffic and safety laws.
    • Observe all traffic signals and let the school crossing guard help you.
    • Be sure to look all ways before crossing the street, and continue to watch for vehicles. Remind children drivers may not always see them.
    • Consider starting a walking school bus by inviting families in your neighborhood to walk children to school together as a group. Adults may take turns walking with the group, so make sure each child knows the adults in their walking group.

    For students walking to school without an adult, here are some points to consider:

    • Make sure they stick to a safe route to school, one with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
    • If they need to cross any streets on the way to school, practice safe street crossing with them before the start of school. Teach your child to cross at designated intersections. Most pedestrian deaths happen mid-block, not at intersections. 
    • Ideally, students should walk together with at least one neighborhood child or older sibling.
    • Make sure they know how to say "no" if someone they don't know offers a ride, and that they yell and run for help if needed.
    • Explain that it is not safe to use a cell phone or text while walking. It distracts and makes them less aware of traffic.
    • If your child has limited mobility or other disabilities, give them extra time to learn safe pedestrian skills.
    • Choose brightly colored backpacks, jackets and other accessories, ideally with reflective materials for days when it begins to get dark earlier. Research shows that the hours of 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. are the riskiest times of day for child pedestrians. 
    • Leave home close to the time you need to arrive at school, so there is an adult waiting to welcome your child to school.
    • If a car stops to ask for directions, never approach or get into the vehicle. If a student is approached by a stranger, keep a safe distance and think of a direction to run. 
    • If there is a problem, students should run, make a lot of noise, and call 911. 
    • Run to safe place - home, school, church, store, etc. to find help.
    • Never give your name or address to people you do not know. 


    Riding a bike to school

    Bike riding is also a great way to get to and from school when children are ready. Remember kids need to learn to be safe pedestrains before they can be safe bicyclists.

    Once kids are ready to roll, here are some basic bicyle safety steps to help keep them safe.

    • Rules of the road. All bicycle riders should follow the basic rules of the road, which also apply to skateboards, scooters, and other non-motorized vehicles:
      • Ride on the right side, in the same direction as traffic using bike lanes when available.
      • Stop and look both ways before entering the street.
      • Stop at all intersections, whether marked or unmarked.
      • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
      • Before turning, use hand signals and look in every direction.
    • Use your head-and protect it. Make sure your child wears a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride. Wearing a helmet can cut the risk of head injuries by about 85 percent and facial injuries by about 65 percent among bike riders. The helmet should be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and fit correctly.
    • Riding ready? Ride with younger children, and don't let them ride on the street. Use your judgment about letting older children ride in traffic. Consider how heavy the road traffic is where they'll be riding, how mature they are, and how well they can stay focused on traffic and follow the rules of the road. 
    • Practice ahead of time. Practice riding the bike route to school before the first day of school to make sure your child can manage it.
    • See the light. Children should only ride a bike when there is plenty of daylight. Wear white or bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. 
    • Distracted drivers. Remind bike riders not to talk on the cell phone or text while riding and avoid other distracts like eating. 
    • Bike maintenance. Show children how to check tire and air pressure, brakes, and seat and handlebar height and do these things at least once a year.