The Everyday Home: Safely walking, bicycling to school

Sonya McDaniel, extension educator, FCS/CED
OSU Extension Center

Students walking or riding bicycles to school this fall need to practice another level of safety precautions, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension interim associate dean and housing and consumer specialist.

Walking or riding is a healthy, active alternative to buses and cars, as well as being environmentally friendly.

“However, children can be at increased risk of injury because they’re smaller and can have trouble judging distances and speeds of cars,” Peek said. “They also generally don’t have a lot of experience with traffic laws.”

Walkers and bikers need to obey all traffic signs, signals and laws, and follow the instructions of adult school crossing guards. In Oklahoma, cyclists share the rights and responsibilities of other vehicle drivers.

“Keep in mind that in many states, bicycles are considered vehicles. Parents and caregivers also should check local ordinances to see if bicyclists can ride on the sidewalk,” Peek said.

Pedestrians should use sidewalks whenever available. If not, keep to the shoulder of the road, facing traffic.

Cyclists should go with the flow of the traffic, stay to the right and ride in a straight line rather than weaving around other vehicles. Bicycle riders also should wear properly fitted bike helmets for protection from injury as well as brightly colored clothing to make them more visible to motorists.

Regardless of the age of the children, family members should work together to map out the safest route from home to school.

“Parents and caregivers should talk with their children about sticking to the chosen route, not letting their friends talk them into taking shortcuts and not hitchhiking or accepting rides from people they don’t know or who weren’t sent by their parents,” Peek said.

“Students riding their bikes to school should watch for road hazards such as potholes, storm grates, pools of water and other things that could cause them to lose control of their bikes,” Peek said. “Parking lots or other low-traffic areas are good places to practice riding to increase bike-handling skills such as riding in a straight line, stopping and signaling.”

Pedestrians and cyclists should pay attention to their surroundings and keep distractions such as cell phones to a minimum.

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