How can you cycle safely and easily with children?

By Ross Hansen, The Bike Storage Company 

Cycling is a fantastic way for you and your family to explore the great outdoors together, but it’s also a good way to cut down on car use for commuting and running errands. 

There is no age limit for kids cycling on the road, so it comes down to you as a parent or guardian to make sensible decisions based on your children’s cycling skills, age and awareness of possible hazards. 

If you have younger children who are unable to cycle themselves yet, you may want to consider alternative ways you can still involve them. For example, you could install a child seat either on the front of your bike or behind you. For added safety and peace of mind, be sure to buy one with a pre-attached harness, to keep your little passenger secure.  

If your children are a little older and are ready to get out on their own two wheels, here are six takeaway tips to help you enjoy stress-free days out with the little ones. 

Teach them basic cycling skills 

The basic requirement for a child is to be able to ride in a stable and controlled manner. They should be able to confidently ride forthrightly, turn a corner and brake in a controlled way. You can teach them in a traffic-free environment such as a park first to ensure they can be safe on the road. This could be a fun and exciting moment for you and the children. 

You can also check if their schools have bikeability training. Bikeability training is usually at the end of primary school or the beginning of secondary school, and it’s a great way for children to learn essential cycling skills and roadcraft. 

Teach them about bike safety and storage 

Always check your children’s bikes are safe to ride before setting off. Are the tyres inflated and do the brakes work? If you’re unsure of anything, reach out to your local bike dealer to assist you.  

As the kids learn how to ride a bike, it’s also a good opportunity to teach them about being responsible for their belongings. Consider options for bike storage at home, and be sure to impart your knowledge to help the children take better care for their valuables.  

Make sure the bike is properly fitted 

Children grow fast and a poorly fitted bike will make riding more difficult and affect handling. Make sure to adjust the seat so that your kid’s knee is bent slightly when the leg is placed on the pedal, and so they can put one foot on the ground with ease once they come to a halt. Once the seat is adjusted properly, check if your child can comfortably reach the handlebars and easily control the brakes and gears. 

Choose the route 

Try to avoid busy roads with complicated junctions. You can use free cycling routes and paths, but make sure your children know that they might encounter pedestrians. To build more confidence, you might also start off by cycling at quieter times of the day so there is less traffic and footfall sharing the paths. 

Position yourselves correctly on the road 

You should ride about a bike length behind your child, who should be positioned on the left side of the road, about 50cm from the gutter. 

It’s also perfectly okay to ride side by side, as this can be more reassuring to your child. If you are two adults with one child, the child can ride between you, following the adult ahead. If you’re the only adult with more than one child, you can have the more experienced one lead the way and have the rest follow as you pay close attention to the less experienced one. 

Communicate during the ride 

Talk throughout the ride, pull your children to the side of the road, and explain what you are doing and why. Since you follow them, you’ll be responsible for checking over their shoulder and signalling them, but encourage them to look and signal too once they have the handling skills to signal and look back. 

To sum up 

Cycling with your children is a great way to bond with your family, increase your children’s confidence levels and reduce your carbon footprint.  

The University of Bristol offers staff a Cycle to Work scheme with an allowance of up to £2,500. While you can’t use this towards the cost of a bike for your child, you can buy a bike that you intend to use at least 50% of the time for travelling to work, including nursery or school drop- offs.  

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