By Sukh Grewal

South Vancouver is a home to a very culturally diverse population. South Asian being the largest numbers. As well there are many young families in this area of Vancouver. There is also diversity in terms of age. One often sees elderly South Asian men in particular gathered in parks. Some group playing cards, while others are just sitting and reminiscing perhaps about what they may be missing about back home or what are some of the activities they enjoy and engage in their new country. There are children playing in the park or in the street.

I was driving in South Vancouver early evening, when I come across a situation which I felt should be discussed as it is an important issue which concerns our community. As I turned from a busy road into a side road, I came across three young boys, ages 4-5 years, riding their bikes. They were riding in and out of the road and at times were in the middle of the road. These boys were alone with no adult supervision. In addition, they had no protective head gear such as a helmet. This side road is fairly busy with cars parked on both side of the road resulting in poor visibility, therefore, increasing the potential for accidents. I shivered as I thought of all the possible hazards. For example, there is a possibility of fall; accident or even a child being abducted.

Riding a bike is lots of fun, however, preventative measures needs to be in place to limit risk of injury. According to Canadian Safety Council, one of the most common cause for bicycle injury is a fall and not motor vehicles. Other causes of injury are crashes with stationary objects such as a tree or power poles, people or other bikes. Taking this into consideration, it is vital that parents recognize and follow safety rules and prepare their children well. Some of the things parents should pay attention to is to make sure that the bike is appropriate size for your child. That is the child should be able to straddle the bike with both feet on the ground; as a bike which is too big or too small is a safety hazard. In addition, ensure your child has a right size helmet and insist on wearing it each time your child wants to ride his or her bike. The bike should have a bell and reflectors that are functional and teach your child how and when to use the bell to alert others.

Some rules that are recommended for young children by the Canadian Safety Council include: teaching a child not to play on the road; No riding on busy streets; No riding at night. A child should observe and stop for all stop signs. Make sure that very young children are accompanied by an adult. Furthermore, teach your child to obey the law by following recommendation such as wearing a helmet.  Parents should teach their child about driveway safety as well as often one hears about a child being hit by a car as he or she rides out of their driveway. Tell your child to look and identify any obstruction to passing traffic. Are there any big bushes or trees? If so, have these bushes trimmed back. Have your child practice how to ride out of the driveway. Teach your child to look, and stop before entering the street. Ask him or her to look left, then right and if no traffic, then enter the street. Always stop at all stop signs regardless of if there is any traffic or not

For the very young children rule out night bike riding as it is not safe for many reasons. Also teach your child to call for help, if he or she gets caught out after dark on a bike. For older children there are some special consideration for night bike riding. It is important that bicycle is visible to other. Therefore, use of bright lights and reflectors is recommended. Wearing light coloured clothes with reflective tape is another recommendation.

Most of the head injuries occur because of a fall or the child/person losing control. While approx. 20% of the injuries reported are due to accident with a car. A fall can result in a serious head injury such as brain damage or death. Many of these serious head injuries (88%) are preventable by wearing a helmet. It is vital that your child wear a bike helmet that fits properly and is certified by CSA International. Main message is safety. Of course parents need to practice this too to role model for their children.