Road Safety for Kids on Wheels

Going for a run or ride together? Know the rules of road safety for kids.

Bicycle traffic signal - road safety for kids
Jacques LOIC / Photononstop / Getty Images

If you're a runner, you probably know and follow safety rules, such as the importance of running against traffic. And if your child rides a bike, I'll bet you require him to follow bike safety rules too (like always wearing a helmet). The top road safety rule for bicyclists: Unlike runners, they should travel traffic. Teens and adults should ride in the street, not on sidewalks. Ideally, bike riders would stay in a bike lane or off-street bike trail, but that's not always possible.

No matter your age or mode of transportation, you should be visible on the road. Wear bright or reflective clothing, and add lights if it's dark out. But what about road safety for kids and parents traveling together? If you're running and your child is biking, the rules conflict. So how do you stay together and stay safe on the road too?

Road Safety Advice from Experts

After a reader contacted me with this question, I checked in with two experts to find out what's best. About.com's Bicycling Expert, Dave Fielder, recommends that in general, each person stick to her own side of the road. Fielder says:

When the bike rider is faster (which will be most of the time), each person should maintain their own sides of the street, traveling the correct way according to the rules. This means the person on foot should be on the left, facing traffic, and the bike rider should be on the right, going with it.

Dan Gelinne, program manager at the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (part of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center) agrees with Fielder, but notes that guidelines on road safety for kids will vary based on specific circumstances. Here are his recommendations:

  • If there are no sidewalks, the safest place to walk is on the left side of the street, going against traffic.
  • If there are sidewalks on only one side of the street, that is the safest side to walk on, no matter the direction.
  • On a low-volume street with no sidewalks, each person should stay on her own side of the road.
  • On a street with a sidewalk, check local policies. Sometimes a city or town will prohibit bicycling on sidewalks, but make exceptions for children under a certain age (so a parent on foot and a kid on a bike could stay together).
  • If the bicyclist rides faster than the runner can go, and will be looping back to meet the runner, make sure the bicyclist knows how to signal properly and will avoid turning into traffic.
  • If there are specific issues with unsafe driving behaviors in the neighborhood, contact the city or town to ask for help.

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