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Bike and Small Wheeled Recreation Safety

Being safe on your bicycle, in-line skates, skateboard, or scooter

Riding a bicycle, skateboarding, in-line skating, and riding a scooter are great ways to be active, get around, and stay fit.

Here are some important safety tips to lower the risk of injuries during these activities.

Bicycle safety

Here's what to do every time you ride your bicycle:

  • Obey the same rules when you ride on the road as you do when you drive a car. This includes riding on the right side of the road so you're going in the same direction as traffic and stopping at all intersections.
  • Look behind you (shoulder check) each time you turn or move out to pass.
  • Learn and use hand signals.
  • Look left, right, and left again before going ahead.
  • Watch the road for hazards like debris, grates, or holes.
  • Be extra careful in wet or cold weather that could affect the road conditions or how well you can see.
  • Watch for people walking, animals, and others on bicycles when you ride on shared places like bike paths or trails.
  • Plan your route and choose the safest way to your destination.  

Protective gear
Bike helmets protect people of all ages. It's the law in Alberta that anyone younger than 18 years must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.

Follow these important bike helmet tips:

  • Make sure your bike helmet meets current, approved helmet safety standards. (Look for a CSA, Snell, or ASTM sticker to know if the helmet is approved.)
  • Take the Bike Helmet YES Test to a to make sure your helmet fits properly. It should be snug, level, and stable.
  • Replace your helmet every 5 years, or whenever recommended by the helmet manufacturer or, after you've been in a crash.
  • Set a good example for children by wearing your bike helmet.
  • Let your child choose their own bike helmet, because they'll be more likely to wear it.

Other gear includes:

  • gloves for a better grip on the handlebars
  • proper, supportive shoes
  • reflective tape, reflectors, and lights so it's easier to see you at night (Reflectors should be on the front, back, and spokes of the bicycle.)
  • bright clothing so it's easier to see in you the daytime
  • a bell or horn on your bike

Equipment check
A bicycle should be the right size for the person riding it. Adjust the seat to fit your height. Make sure your bicycle is working properly, and do an ABC quick check before every ride:

  • A is for air: Make sure the tires are firm.
  • B is for brakes, bar, and bell: Check that your brake levers work and the handlebars are the right height, and test your bell.
  • C is for chain: It should be tight and well lubed.

Look for an organization or club that offers bicycle safety training for the road or other terrains such as the mountains. Most bike shops and recreation centres offer this training.

Riding with children
Children can often ride a bicycle before they understand how to be safe. Children aren't ready to ride alone until they understand road safety rules, know how to signal, and know how to avoid major risks.

When riding bicycles, young children should always:

  • Ride with an adult.
  • Ride in a single line behind an adult who knows how to ride safely.
  • Use hand signals. 
  • Get off of their bicycles to cross the street.

Around age 10 is when most children have the skills they need to ride on the road alone. But every child is different.

Skateboard, in-line skating, and scooter safety

Skateboards, in-line skating, and scooters are great ways for everyone to be active. Here's what to do before you start these activities:

  • Think about your abilities, and don't do anything too advanced without training or practice.
  • Check fo anything dangerous in the area where you're riding or playing.
  • Avoid distractions like using your phone.

Protective gear
Helmets can lower the risk of head injury. There are 2 kinds of helmets you could use:

  • Sport-specifc helmets are recommended for some small-wheeled activities like skateboarding. Skateboarding helmets cover the back of your head and are designed to protect against more than 1 crash.
  • Multi-sport helmets meet safety standards for more than 1 activity. Be sure to read the label carefully so you know what activities a multi-sport helmet covers. If you have any questions, contact the manufacturer or your local sports store.

Because falls will happen, it's also important to wear other protective gear like wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads. They lower the risk of injuries and make a new activity more fun to learn and practice.

Skating or riding a scooter with children
If you're with children, supervise actively. Stay where you can see, hear, and reach them, and pay close attention to what they're doing.

Lead by example to show children how to be safe. Teach them to safety rules and make sure they follow them. 

Current as of: December 23, 2021

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention, Alberta Health Services