Cycling is a fantastic way for your kids to enjoy the great outdoors and can be the perfect way to spend family days out. It’s also a great way of keeping fit and helps children to gain confidence on the roads.
That’s why we’ve put together a handy guide so your children (and you!) can enjoy your next bike ride in safety. From wearing the right clothing to knowing the rules of the road, we’ll make sure you and your kids aren’t just cycling safely but that you all look like pros too!
Get ahead – wearing a helmet
A helmet is the most important part of your child’s safety when they’re on their bike, and should be a must-have accessory for you too! Protecting your head from any nasty bumps or falls, these can be lifesavers when you’re out and about on your bike.
Always try to buy a new helmet so you can be sure that it’s never been in an accident before as any bumps or bangs on the helmet can reduce how protective it is. The helmet should also fit snugly, being neither too big nor too small and covering the forehead. Fasten the straps underneath your child’s chin so they hold the helmet in place securely, making sure it can’t be twisted around or pushed backwards.
One of the major hurdles here may be your child not wanting to wear a helmet as they’re not “cool”, but thankfully, we’ve got some incredibly fun designs. From bright pink helmets to ones with flames (which, of course, add to the speed of the bicycle), there’s something that your child will love and which won’t ruin their “street cred”. Or, if they’ve already got a helmet but it’s a bit plain, why not jazz it up with some of their favourite stickers – and don’t forget the reflective ones too!
I want to ride my bicycle – getting the right bike
It’s important that the bike your child’s riding is the right size for them because they need to be in full control. To test to see if a bike is the right size, get your child to sit on the saddle and make sure they can touch the floor with the ball of one foot.
If your child is going to be carrying anything on their bike, make sure it’s only a small item and is carried in a proper rack / basket or a rucksack and isn’t going to interfere with the motion of the wheels.
Shine bright – wearing the right clothing
Even if you and your child are only going out during the day, wearing bright clothing still helps you to get noticed quickly, making sure approaching cars know you’re there in plenty of time. And, if you are venturing out at night, be sure to have reflective gear on – something like our high visibility vest (available for children and adults) and our reflective trouser bands are ideal.
Any loose items of clothing are a no-no on bikes, particularly when it comes to trousers as these can get trapped in bike chains, causing accidents. Again, our trouser bands can help to stop loose trousers from getting stuck in chains (they’re great for the commute too) or tucking your trousers in your socks is another great idea.
For added protection, you can also encourage your child to wear a long-sleeved top, and knee and elbow pads, which are particularly useful if they’re still learning and are prone to a few tumbles! Always avoid letting your child wear headphones while they’re on their bikes too as this could mean they don’t hear oncoming traffic or horns and they may be distracted.
Light the way – cycle lights
When cycling at night, or when the sun is dropping in the sky, it’s vital that you and your child have lights on your bikes. A white front light, red backlight and a red rear reflector are required and it’s important that you always check that these are working before you set off. Try to carry spare batteries for them (if they’re powered in this way) in case one of them does fail.
The rules of the road
The first few trips out on the open road may be quite daunting, both for you and your child, but with all of the following safety tips and rules in mind, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy this healthy, environmentally-friendly way of getting around.
- Always keep both hands on the handlebars
- Make sure other road users know exactly what you’re doing or are about to do by using right and left arm signals when turning
- If you’re going to turn, overtake or stop, always check if there’s anyone behind you first, to make sure it’s safe
- When you’re at a junction (or even just leaving your driveway) always check right and left before going out onto the road
- Retain a safe distance between you and any vehicles, bearing in mind that anyone in a higher vehicle, e.g. a lorry or bus, may not be able to see you
- Don’t try to jump the queues by riding in-between the kerb and vehicles as they may not see you and could turn into your path
- Always keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians that may be crossing the road where you’re turning, or those looking to cross a road between parked cars
- Keep a door’s width away from any parked or stationary cars that you’re overtaking as they may not see you in their mirrors when they’re opening their doors
- Obey all pedestrian crossings, road signs and traffic lights
- If you need to cross a busy road, it may be better to dismount and walk across safely with your child
Have you got bikeability?
Remember Cycling Proficiency at school? Well, this has now been replaced by Bikeability, a national scheme that helps promote bike safety. Consisting of 3 levels, it covers all areas of riding a bike from preparing a bike for cycling to understanding the blind spots drivers have.
Many schools across the UK participate in this scheme but if not, you can check to see where there’s a course near you. Adults can join in too!
It’s all about the accessories
Finally, no bike ride is going to be complete without a few accessories. Make sure you’re prepared for all eventualities by kitting yourself out with a puncture kit, just in case you get a flat tyre on your journey. Then, get a bell so everyone knows you’re coming, gloves (so you look the part) and a basket so you can make a full day of it!