The autumnal equinox marks the start of the nights drawing in and the clocks will soon be going back. Not many of us like the idea of our kids cycling at night but dusk (sunset in Sheffield is at 3.45 in mid December) is equally and often more dangerous as drivers have yet to switch on their headlights.
It can be a worry sending kids out cycling at this time of year
For cyclists that means that sadly cycling on the road becomes more dangerous, especially around dusk and on those misty or dark winter mornings. October is one of the worst months for accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians due to drivers dealing with early evening low visibilty at rush hour, often coinciding with when kids are cycling home from after school clubs.
As cyclists and parents of children who cycle home from or play on their bikes after school, we should ensure we make ourselves and our kids as visible as possible in these low light conditions. It’s also illegal not to have lights on your bike if cycling in the hours of darkness – there’s no specific time set each day as your surroundings play an enormous part in light levels, but as soon as the sun has set then you need to ensure you’re visible with lights as well as reflectors.
So how do we keep our Kids safe when cycling at dusk?
The obvious answer is to make them as visible as possible. Here’s a ‘Cycling at Dusk Safety Checklist’ you can go through to help ensure your child is spotted by motorists and avoids unnecessary accidents.
General Road Safety
Your child should have undertaken some road safety training before allowing them to cycle day or night on the roads – everything becomes trickier when visibility is reduced after the sun sets so you may need to ride with them a few times to ensure you are confident in their abilities and they are ‘road savvy’. Ask your school for details of their bikeability or cycling proficiency schemes, most happen around year 5 (age 9-10). If your child is cycling on the road in Autumn and winter, they need to pay particular attention to avoid wet leaves, mud and metal slippy man hole covers! (most of us have come a cropper on one of these!)
Cycle Devon Cycling Proficiency training for kids – have a look in your area or ask at your school for details of a course
Important all year round but even more so for winter cycling – you can also add reflective strips to the helmet if it doesn’t already have reflective areas of the design.
Funky, pocket sized, flexible, set of lights are encased in water resistant silicon and conveniently they are USB rechargeable – The Electron Milii Lightset.
A good set of lights that work, check them regularly! White for the front and red for the rear and a set of spare batteries in your childs back pack! – you or your children definitely need to fit lights if you plan on riding during the ‘hours of darkness’ (the legal term which includes dusk and dawn) as it is a legal requirement and therefore would effect any insurance claims if you or your children were involved in an accident. Also you may want to look for a set that you can whip on and off easily to avoid them being nicked!
Most bikes come with reflectors fitted front and back and on both wheels, check they big enough and not obscured by clothing when riding, and are not cracked or covered with mud so they can reflect headlights effectively. As with lights, red at the rear and white at the front so people know which direction you are travelling in. Wheel reflectors should be white.
Hi Vis Clothing
A high vis reflective vest is a great idea – if your child is absolutely dead set against wearing one (they aren’t the most stylish things!) then try a hi vis reflective back pack cover for their school bag – a great compromise (although both would be best) and it will keep their bag dry and clean too!
If you buy a jacket especially designed for cycling they are likely to already have reflective properties to them. HiVis gloves are also another way to add some extra reflection and double up for warmth and protection in a fall too along with HiVis kids arm bands
HiVis kids Gloves ‘Polaris mini Hoolie’ – great for warmth, protection and being spotted on the road more easily!
Encourage your children to keep their bike in good condition, keeping a bike clean and checking the breaks and tyres regularly is especially important when road surfaces are muddy and slippy. The grit they put on roads in winter will take it’s toll so needs to be rinsed off (and dried) – try and make it part of the routine of coming in from a cycle and your kids bikes will last longer and you’ll be able to pass them down or sell them on! Take a look at the tips in this post on Basic Bike Maintenance for Kids.
Pedals and Grip
Check that your kids bike pedals have a decent grip to avoid any accidents caused by their feet sliding if it’s muddy or wet. Equally, ensure they wear non slippy footwear with treads to cycle in – it may mean carrying their smarter school shoes in their back pack but it will save wear and tear on school shoes and the chance of accidents so well worth it. You can buy pedals with extra grip to fit to a bike, lots of newer kids bikes these days already come with pedals with little raised studs.
Polaris JR Aqualite extreme Jacket – weatherproof and your child will definitely be spotted on the road wearing this!
In Autumn and winter we can expect some miserable cold and wet weather – be sure that your children have warm and waterproof cycling clothes so they can focus their attention on cycling and not shivering. Gloves, hats and jackets along with waterproof trousers are useful to have in a backpack in case of a sudden change in the weather. A mud guard is also useful for preventing you having to wash their clothes quite so often! You can buy mudguards for most bikes if yours isn’t fitted with one.
Lastly a message to drivers!
Have you ever had a car with automatic headlights? The lights come on way before our eyes tell us they need to and that’s because our eyes adapt to gloomy, darkening conditions tricking us into thinking we can see everything clearly – we can’t! So drivers, get your lights on early so your eyes don’t have to adjust and you have more chance of seeing kids cycling, especially those that may not have followed our tips on making themselves more visible!
And last of all remember to ALWAYS give cyclists room on the road!