In Ontario, children under the age of 18 must wear a helmet but adults are not legally required to do so. That being said, it’s never a bad idea and it sets a good example for others. A properly fitted helmet should sit snug and straight on your head (see image below).
Helmets should be replaced 3-5 years after they’ve started wearing it, unless it suffers an impact (like if it’s dropped) in which case it should be replaced before they ride again.
A good guideline for helmet fit is the 2-V-1 rule. You should be able to fit 2 fingers between your eyebrows and the helmet, and 1 finger between the chin strap and your chin. Make sure that the straps form a "V" around your ears. Wearing bulky hats like tuques or baseball hats can affect the fit of a helmet and render it less effective. You should also consider your hair style when it comes to helmet fit, keep ponytails low and if you're going to have braids in their hair, try shopping or a helmet while the braids are in so that you can make sure their helmet will fit over them.
Image courtesy Corey Davis
Having a bell or a horn on your bike is not only required by law, but is also a great way to make cycling more fun! There are lots of fun designs available at your local bike shop, hardware store or dollar store. Bells and horns start at about $5.
If you’re riding with a child, you can have them practice ringing their bell when they’re approaching pedestrians on the sidewalk. It’s always good to let other road users know when you might be coming close to their space and so that the pedestrians can let your kid pass them. When you’re riding with them, it’s also good to practice ringing your own bell more often to help teach your kid when they should be ringing their own bell. This would include when you’re passing another cyclist or when you’re riding next to parked cars and you think that someone might open their door into your path.
If you're going to be riding their bike 30 minutes before sunset or 30 minutes after sunrise, you legally have to have a white light on the front of their bike and a red light or reflector on the back of the bike.
Light sets start at around $20 and come in battery operated or rechargeable versions. Rechargeable lights tend to be more expensive but are usually brighter and save you the burden of having to buy and dispose of batteries.
When you’re shopping, you may notice that the packaging will include a lumen count. This is the unit used to measure the amount of visible light that a light produces. The more lumens it creates, the brighter the light. Really bright lights can make it hard for others on the road to see. You will still be able to see and be seen if the light is pointed down slightly out of courtesy to the other people on the road.
If you're riding with a child and they are still small and ride fairly low to the ground, it’s not a bad idea to attach a flag or a balloon to make them more visible in a driver’s mirror.