Are Kids Safe Cycling on the Roads?


Are kids safe cycling on the roads?

What do you think?  Do you still ask a 7 year old to hold your hand when you cross a busy road on foot, if so would you be comfortable with them turning into a junction on their bike?  Recently the BBC published this interesting article –

kids road safety

Cycling in Britain is often perceived as dangerous, but how much have the risks of riding a bike changed…

We posted about the subject of road safety for kids on bikes a while ago on our Facebook page and we had an enormous response.

With this article full of statistics appearing on the BBC and Chris Boardman writing an article just this week about “Why I won’t let my 8 year old cycle on the road” we thought it was time to revisit the subject and offer some advice to parents.

Would you allow your 8 year old to cycle with you on the road?

When will your kids be allowed to cycle on the roads or do you always take them to safe areas like parks and cycle paths?  When we were kids we rode everywhere on our bikes with no helmets – have things changed?  Are the roads now just too busy to take the risk of cycling as a family when your youngest kids have only just learned?

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When we posted this question in a recent blog post “At What Age Should Kids Be Cycling on the Road” we wanted to gauge the way parents feel about cycling with their kids.

We’re not talking about sending your 5 year old off to cycle on the roads alone, but cycling with the family as a group with one or both parents.

Bikeability and Cycling Proficiency for Kids

Bikeability (what was Cycling proficiency) in the UK starts when a child is in Year 5 (age 9 to 10) – it’s a week long course where they learn about cycling on the road by themselves.  However,many of us cycle with our kids long before they have taken (and passed) their bikeability course.  To find out more about Bikeability and other cycle training, the cycle charity have a great helpline facility.

On our Facebook page Father of four David Stansfield posted –

My family ride as a group , me front wife back , a 15 year old two 10 year olds (twins ) and now our 5 year old . We only go out on quiet roads and lanes . All the children are in a club/academy and the first one to shout car up or car down is our 5 year old. She has been taught well by her academy. 
However we wouldn’t dream of heading out onto a busy road . The intention is to build confidence over the years.
I would recommend ALL children do bikeabililty and join an cycling youth academy as the simple stuff they learn saves lives.

There is safety in numbers, but one adult riding behind and slightly to the right of a young rider(s) is a good way to position yourselves on the road.  You do need to be sure your child can ride in a relatively straight line and will listen to your instructions.

Bike rides should be fun!

We believe parents know when their own child is ready to ride on the roads.

As Sarah Pearson also commented on our Facebook page –

It depends how long they have been riding, their capability and road sense etc. No right age it depends in the child.

We agree with Sarah! Do take a look at the other responses in the post embedded above  and add your own point of view – the ages vary wildly from 4 up to waiting until they are teenage before people feel comfortable riding with their kids on the road.  Most people felt that it was the conditions of the road that were important, although many of us live on main roads and have to cope with traffic when we cycle.

Here is our advice for making road cycling with your children as safe as possible!

  • Ensure your child can competently handle all aspects of riding – a wobbly child is not safe on the road, full stop.
  • Practise some road riding on your own before you go out with your child (many of us only start cycling once our kids have a bike so you may be a little rusty!)  You can also practise a safe route and see where there may be points you need to dismount / slow down / cross a road.
  • Ensure you know all the UK rules of road cycling yourself!
  • Discuss how you will give instructions before you get on your bikes.  Your child needs clear easy to understand instructions – Slow Down, Get In,  Stop!
  • Teach your child about turning out of and into junctions – where should they position themselves be in respect to you. Training in a quiet cul de sac will be useful.
  • Signal clearly at all times.
  • Ride in a position where they can be seen and can see.
  • Get them to make eye contact with other road users, especially at junctions – that way they know they have seen.
  • Create a maximum distance rule so they don’t get too far ahead of you.  You will need to control the speed – they’ll want to whizz along so set a pace that you are comfortable with and be strict about it!
  • Start riding on quiet roads or cycle paths to judge how your child responds to simple instructions before heading out on any busier roads.  If they wont obey or can’t hear/understand every single instruction from you in a safe place, they are not ready for the road.
  • If there is only one adult choose to cycle behind your child or two abreast with you on the outside.  It is legal to ride two abreast in the uk.See rule 66.
  • If you are cycling with more than one child you need to ensure they understand the heirarchy – oldest in front!
  • If in doubt wait until you have more than one adult so you can have one in front and one behind.

Build Confidence Slowly!

Even quiet roads have drivers that speed around corners – make it clear before you head out  that on some parts of the ride you need your child to get off and push the bike on the pavement.  Build confidence slowly – it’s YOU that will find it stressful rather than your child (most think they are more than ready!), you need to help them understand your concerns without putting them off!

when to start riding with your kids

Ughh we hate  stabilisers (see why here) – other than that what an awesome photo!

Riding your bike, especially family bike rides are so much fun – so if you feel nervous having never ridden on the road before it’s worth looking into getting some training with an experienced rider.

Remember, roads were not built solely for cars and even today are still for all sorts of users (car owners do not a pay road tax).  When you’re behind the wheel of your car, behave towards cyclists the way you would want other road users to be when you or your kids are on bikes.

Do get in touch if you have any questions for Beth and Simon, owners of the Little Bike Company and parents themselves of two little cyclists!  We sell kids bikes for toddlers through to teens and we can help you with all aspects of choosing the perfect bike.

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