Bike-to-School Safety

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The start of fifth grade heralded a switch to middle school and a 7:15 a.m. bus pick-up. My daughters have not inherited my up-and-at-'em love for morning, so I was dreading the daily struggle to get out the door even earlier.

But with school now only one mile away, the girls could ride their bikes and get an extra 30 minutes of sleep. For them, it was a no-brainer.

Over the summer, we spun our wheels together to practice riding safely in traffic. We also reviewed safe bike-riding tips we found online at www.kidshealth.org and www.bikemaine.org.

Then we geared up. Helmets? Check. The girls already loved their sleek Trek Vapor Youth lids, which I chose for the easy and secure noggin adjustments.

Bike locks were trickier, but we settled on Kryptonite's KryptoFlex 1015 cable lock. It's much lighter than a U-lock, easier for a kid to wrangle around bike and rack, and includes a handy carrying bracket that mounts on the bike. In the face of the girls' anxiety over learning locker and bike lock combos simultaneously, the key-style was an easy winner. (Good thing this one comes with two keys and a replacement program — it only took four days to lose one.)

Next up, backpacks. Adjustability was key to stop distracting flopping and sagging. They needed padding to prevent jabs in the back from edgy binders. And they had to yawn wide enough for a lunch box, running shoes, a recorder, two binders, a book, a fleece, a water bottle, and several day's worth of discarded socks, notes, and snack wrappers.

The girls voted for L.L. Bean's Original Plus Book Pack for the six color choices and roomy yet trim design. I like the key clip, the reflective strips, and the $29 price. Caitlin also gave Kelty's Cadence a thumbs-up (cool compartments, nifty zipper pulls). It's a grown-up pack with a grown-up price — $60. But it's easy to adjust and secure with waist- and chest-straps, and so bombproof that it's likely to graduate from high school with her.

So we're on a roll until the serious cold arrives in late November, at which point you'll find me shopping for either very loud alarm clocks or snow tires for their Schwinns.

How do you keep your kids safe on the road? Click the comments link below to find and share solutions.

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