Giving a child a bicycle is giving him joy, fun and exercise.

Giving a child a helmet to wear on the new bicycle is giving him the chance to use his bicycle safely and responsibly.

According to National Safe Kids, bicycles are associated with more injuries in children than any other product except automobiles. And even as the Lowcountry works toward becoming more bicycle-friendly, motor traffic is also increasing.

Parents can set a good example by wearing helmets when they bicycle - and by providing their children helmets that meet Consumer Product Safety Commission standards and that fit properly.

Helmets have been determined to reduce the risk of severe brain injury by up to 88 percent, but sadly only 45 percent of children wear them.

In fact, even tiny children on tricycles should wear helmets if, for no other reason than to make it a habit.

And this holiday, parents might want to stick another package in the bike basket: neon clothing. It's a good idea to wear it night or day while bicycling.

Just as important, children - and adults - need to know the laws regarding bicycling, and how important it is that they abide by them.

When a bicyclist rides against traffic, he puts himself at greater risk of being hit by a car - and of pushing a driver toward road rage.

Hand and arm signals are a big help. So are proper lights and sound brakes.

And don't forget common sense. Bicyclists should make eye contact with drivers, and should always have at least one hand on the handlebars.

Nothing brightens the holidays like a new bicycle. And nothing about that bicycle is more important than using it responsibly and safely.

You can start with a helmet.