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Programs: Bicycle Safety Education / Injury Reduction





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by David Mozer
Copyright © 1986-2010 International Bicycle Fund. All rights reserved.


Studies suggest that cyclists, especially children, lack basic knowledge of traffic as well as bike handling skills to effectively prevent accident situations. Traditional parental instruction and bike rodeos have not met this training need. Bicyclists need to learn they have the same rights and the same responsibilities on the road as drivers who are trained and tested. Additionally, bicyclist must be aware of the special hazards and know the unique skills necessary for safe cycling. It is expected that the number and severity of accidents can be reduced by a bicycle­related injury reduction program. We have divided our suggestion into three areas: Education, Enforcement and Safety Awareness.


Education can be achieved through special classes in bicycle education with hands­on practice, directed at users, and general bicycle safety education directed at adults who might be supervising children. The best approach is to work through existing organizations. The most obvious one is the school system where bicycle education can often be included as part of the regular physical education program (elementary age), the Driver's Education program (high school age) and introduced through the PTA (for adults). Other good organizations to work through are scouts groups, civic groups, boys and girls clubs, Y's, 4H, parks and recreation and summer programs.

Program Idea: Education program for 4th graders county­wide in schools. The first year it might be expanded to pick­up 5th and 6th graders. By conducting workshops to train Health and PE teachers the program can become a regular part of the Health and PE curriculum.

Program Idea: Establish a cooperative program with local bicycle shops to distribute bicycle helmet safety information and a reduced price coupon for bicycle helmets at participating shops. The are also some manufactures who will sell reduced price helmets to PTAs and other nonprofit organizations.

Program Idea: Safe bicycling practices are not always widely known by adults. This limits the quality of supervision for children. An effective way to promote bicycle safety is by working with parents. Concurrently, they improve their riding techniques. One way to do this is to work through the PTA's. A class for parents would identify the major causes of accidents and what children need to know to avoid accident situations. Additional sessions could be targeted at adult scout­type leaders, or other organizations which a large number of adults involved in supervising youth activities.   The traffic skills courses of the League of American Bicyclists (,  "CanBike" by the Canadian Cycling Association ( "Bikeability" in the UK ( and Sprockids ( are four such programs.  Each is thorough and well-designed, with a good theoretical and statistical basis, and include on-the-road segments. Such programs can reduce biking accidents by 80%!  For information and certified instructors contact the sponsoring organizations.

Program Ideas: City and County Departments of Parks and Recreation can include bicycle education as part of their day camp program. They can also help implement some other safety programs, i.e. bicycle safety checks, special safety equipment purchases, etc. The "Y" and other day camp programs can also be encouraged to participate.

Program Idea: Have the curriculum of high school driver training courses cover sharing the road and the special hazards presented where there is a complex traffic mix.

Program Idea: Work with the local police department or other groups doing traditional "Bicycle Rodeos" to upgrade the content and format. Encourage the concept of a "Safety and Skills Course".

Program Idea: Send monthly press release and public service announcement series on bicycle safety to local media. (IBF has a list of suggested topics.)

Program Idea: Appear on television and radio talk shows discussing bicycle safety.

Enforcement (Reinforcement)

To make bicycling safer (and add relevance to education programs), the Police Department must enforce traffic regulations for children and adult bicyclists. Many police officers will not stop children since officers often feel that it results in negative publicity. As a result, children (and bicycling adults) grow up with the idea that they can do whatever the please. Enforcement should be viewed as reinforcement of educational programs. Police officers need to be convinced that enforcing traffic regulations for bicyclist is an effective way to curb accidents and injuries. They also need to be shown that there is community support for their efforts.

Program Idea: One approach is to set up a bicycle training seminar for county and municipal police officers. There is an excellent film made by the Santa Barbara Police Department entitled "Ride on By." The film, which is intended to be shown to police officers, gives hard data showing how enforcing traffic regulations for bicyclists, including children, saves lives. Officers can also learn what type of infractions by bicyclists lead to the majority of accidents. This allows police officers to concentrate enforcement where their efforts will be most effective in reducing accidents. As an alternative the film and information could be presented at roll­call.

Program Idea: An alternative to a $35 ticket is to require a child (or an adult) to attend a safety education class for a specific number of hours or sessions. The child offender would simply get a warning ticket and the parents would get a letter explaining why their child was stopped and why he or she must attend a safety education class. This approach has been successfully implemented in other communities and is very popular with parents. It is also popular with police officers who do not like to give regular tickets to children.

Program Idea: Prepare written or video material on bicyclist rights and responsibilities for police department pre­patrol briefing session.

Program Idea: To introduce the idea of enforcement early on in the education process, involve trained police officers in the safety education courses.

Program Idea: Parents and peers can also serve as an element of reinforcement. In education programs to these groups ideas about how they can feel confident and good about reinforcing safe behavior in those around them should be included.

Safety Awareness

A third strategy is to develop public awareness on issues that are elements of bicycle safety and accident and injury reduction. These can divided up into several categories: special equipment programs, bicycle safety checks and share­the­road campaigns.

Program Ideas: Over a quarter of the local emergency medical response bicycle accidents involved head injuries. Of these more than half were categorized as "urgent/life threatening". And while night bicycling is popular and accident during these periods of dark are less numerous, when they do occur they are typically more serious. Many communities have developed special programs to encourage the purchase and use of special equipment such as helmets and reflective tape. Helmet companies and bike shops are often willing to offer discounts for special community or school promotion programs. This type of program is very effective in reducing head injuries and could be implemented in conjunction with other safety programs (i.e. through Health Department which may already makes child safety seats available).

Program Idea: Over 10% of the emergency medical response bicycle accidents studied were due to bicycle equipment malfunction (this compares with 5% in other studies.) Bicycle safety checks can be done at schools, summer camps, bicycle education classes, Bicycle Sundays, street fairs, community celebrations or any other place where bicyclists gather. Sometimes a local business (i.e. McDonald's, 7­11) will sponsor a bicycle safety check.

Program Idea: Of the accidents studied, citations were issued six to one to motorists. Regardless of the implication of this, drivers are very sensitive about the rightfulness on the road so approaching these issues requires a balanced, sensitive, non­statistical and non­accusatory approach. Publicizing the necessity for responsible road behavior must be simultaneously addressed to motorist and bicyclist. Ideally this would be done on the backs of bus where the message has an immediate relevance. Alternatively, public service space and time could be solicited from newspaper, radio and television. Even a focus on a single medium could be supplemented with press releases and PSA to other media.

Program Idea: Work with local physicians organization to have doctors "prescribe" bicycle helmets and/or bicycle safety classes to their patients who bicycle.

IBF's Bicycle / Safety / Sustainability Bibliography / Reading List


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The International Bicycle Fund is an independent, non-profit organization. Its primary purpose is to promote bicycle transportation. Most IBF projects and activities fall into one of  four categories: planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance and promoting international understanding. IBF's objective is to create a sustainable, people-friendly environment by creating opportunities of the highest practicable quality for bicycle transportation. IBF is funded by private donation. Contributions are always welcome and are U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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