by Kiran Qureshi
As a long delayed spring finally arrives, this time of year brings out young bicyclists. Cycling is a great way to have fun and stay healthy.
Like drivers, bicyclists are also subject to the Highway Traffic Act ("HTA") of Ontario. The HTA defines "Bicycle" to include a tricycle, a unicycle and a regular un-motorized two-wheel bicycle.
Young bicyclists are of particular concern due to their inexperience and vulnerability to injury. Consequently, there are obligations on parents and guardians to ensure safe cycling.
Most importantly, the HTA specifies that parents are responsible for their children under the age of 16 to wear a helmet while riding their bicycle. The section states,
"(2.2) No parent or guardian of a person under sixteen years of age shall authorize or knowingly permit that person to ride on or operate a bicycle, other than a power-assisted bicycle, on a highway unless the person is wearing a bicycle helmet as required by subsection (2.1)"
The helmet should be the correct size, be properly adjusted, and worn without anything underneath. The best helmet has been manufactured to meet strict safety standards. Look for a safety standards sticker meeting the approval of safety organizations such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Snell, ANSI, ASTM, BSI, CPSC and SAA.
Helmets from other sports such as hockey and baseball are not recommended for cycling. They are designed and tested for different types of impact.
Parents should also explain to their children that they must seek permission before riding their bikes. The Ministry of Transportation specifically recommends that children under the age of 10 not ride their bicycles in traffic without proper adult supervision as they lack the depth perception and the thinking skills required to negotiate traffic.
Parents must ensure that the bicycle has sufficient illumination for darker conditions and has proper functioning brakes. Parents should also train their children on how to signal, perform shoulder checks, how to stop/brake, use gears and understanding and following road signs.
Having an injured child can be one of the most difficult things for parents to face. Unfortunately, this situation can be made worse if they did not adequately supervise or train their children in safe riding practices, as they may have exposed themselves to allegations of negligence in lawsuit.
The Ministry of Transportation has compiled a "Young Cyclist's Guide" which contains additional helpful information. The Guide can be found at http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/cycling/young-cyclist-guide/index.shtml.