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Cycling is a fast growing recreational activity in North America. Mountain bikes; racing bikes; touring bikes; bikes in every price range; bikes for every taste; bikes for the old, the young, and the in-between; and especially bikes for kids, sized now all the way down to toddler scale.

More and younger children are hitting the streets on bicycles every year. This shift in demand, combined with parents cycling with toddlers in trailers, has made safety a critical concern.

Some cities have designated special bike lanes along roadways. Others have constructed off-road bike trails, usually in parklands. Motorist education is on the upswing, usually spearheaded by cyclist rights groups. These efforts may help, yet accidents continue to mount, particularly for kids, particularly head injuries, to which kids are most vulnerable.

Bike safety helmets can prevent most head injuries and reduce the severity of many others. But the helmets must be worn. They must fit. And kids must want to wear them.

Tested, approved bike safety helmets are now available for kids as young as two. Prices range from fifteen to fifty dollars. The more upscale models tend to have somewhat better ventilation, more comfortable straps, and, not surprising, more color: for example, Pokemon or Disney
character logos. The effectiveness of the different models is fundamentally the same.

Do not consider buying a used bike helmet for your child. The helmets are not designed for multiple impacts and may have interior damage even if the shell appears intact.

When you do make the purchase, take your child along. The fit of the helmet is at least as important as the fit of a pair of shoes. If too tight or too loose, the helmet's capacity for impact absorption is lessened. As well, if the helmet is uncomfortable, the likelihood of your child wearing it regularly is also lessened.

The threat of grounding bicycle use for failure to wear a helmet isn't much incentive for a child. Sure, it may work when you're present, but what about when Junior gets around the corner or gets to the neighborhood park? Worth remembering is that most kids' bike accidents happen off road and do not involve cars or trucks.

Manufacturers have recognized the problem. Their helmets are bright: fluorescent green and orange, shocking pink, metallic blue. Many are decorated with cartoon characters, some recognizable, some generic. Admittedly, they are faddish, but if they encourage wearing, even for display, it's the right thing for perhaps the wrong reason. So be it, in the beginning.

Some parents have discovered a hidden virtue, other than economy, in plain colored helmets, such as white. Using non-corrosive paint, stickers or decals, the kids can do their own decorating.

The most positive incentive a youngster can have to wear a bike helmet is imitation of authority figures. Peer pressure will impact later but, in the beginning, parents and other adults must set the example. "Do as I say, not as I do" won't cut it. If you take your child cycling, wear a helmet yourself.

A final note, children riding in bike trailers should also wear helmets. You'll feel better, and so will your child.