Cycling not only provides exercise for children, but it's also an environmentally friendly mode of transportation. The warm weather in Arizona gives children and families the ability to ride bikes most of the year. Along with this advantage comes the necessity for bicycle safety laws, which are established in cities statewide. From mandatory helmet requirements, to basic rules of the road when riding a bike, there are Arizona laws designed to keep kids safe when enjoying bicycle fun.
Helmets for Kids
There are no comprehensive state laws in Arizona regarding helmets for kids, but each city decides whether a helmet is required for children younger than 18. Cities such as Yuma, Flagstaff and Tucson all require that a helmet be worn. While Phoenix doesn't yet have a helmet law, health and safety officials highly suggested that all children wear helmets when riding a bike. The importance of head-gear is underscored by statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that state that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury by 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by 88 percent.
Rules of the Road
Children on bicycles should know and understand basic the rules of the road, which are largely the same for Arizona and all states. Hand signals let pedestrians and drivers know the intentions of a cyclist and help prevent accidents. Have the child use a bell or shout out to pedestrians walking ahead to indicate the child is coming up behind them. If your child is old enough to ride in the street, or there is no sidewalk, bicycle riders always ride in the same direction as traffic. They should follow all street signs and traffic lights, while yielding to pedestrians.
Arizona state law specifically prohibits more than one person per seat on a bicycle. This means kids should not ride on the handlebars or sit double while one person pedals. Riding without at least one hand on the handlebars is illegal, as is holding on to a moving vehicle and having it pull you on the bike -- sometimes called skitching. Brakes are required on all bicycles, and children or families should not ride more than two abreast on a roadway. Drivers are required to give at least 3-feet clearance when passing cyclists on the road, but if a child loses control, this may not be enough.
Safety Laws and Tips
Some safety laws and tips are universal. Always check your kids' bicycle for repairs, and always do the required maintenance as needed. Low tires, bent rims, worn brakes and/or dirty chains lead to accidents. Arizona law does not specifically prohibit riding bicycles on sidewalks, but you should check individual city laws before doing so. If children ride their bikes on the sidewalk rather than in the street, make sure they know to stop at driveways, yield to pedestrians and look for cars before crossing streets. When using crosswalks, Arizona law prohibits riding across so make sure children know to walk their bikes. Have children watch for people unexpectedly opening car doors or pulling out of parking spaces and driveways. Lastly, riding bikes at night is especially dangerous, even with the required safety lamps and reflectors. Use extreme caution if your child is out at night riding her bike -- even on quiet roadways.