Once your kids have mastered the basics of cycling (from around age 7), they may want to cycle with you on the road or trail – at this stage it’s a good idea to teach them some on-road cycling skills and road safety awareness. Learning these skills will not only help keep kids safe on their bikes, but also enables them to graduate to cycling on the road – opening up a whole new world of adventure, improving fitness and giving them a sense of independence and freedom.
GET GEARED FOR SAFE CYCLING
Safety starts with having the right gear and using it correctly. Follow these basic rules or for more detailed information, read our guide to essential gear and bikes for kids.
Make sure your child’s bike fits correctly and is in working order. Check brakes, tyres and lights/reflectors. Teach your kids how to care for their bikes and do a basic bike safety check before they ride. This will not only teach them how their bike works, but is essential to ensuring their bike runs smoothly and last longer.
BE BRIGHT – BE SEEN
Ensure your child is as visible as possible to other road users. Confident road positioning (as taught through cycle training), high visibility or brightly colored clothing, lights, reflectors and bells are great ways to do this. A white front light and red rear light and reflectors are legal requirements when cycling in the dark.
Encourage then to always wear a helmet. Check that it’s the right size for them, fitted correctly and securely fastened! In South Africa both adults and kids are legally obliged to wear them.
Encourage kids to always ride with at least one hand on the handlebars. Rather carry books and other items in a bicycle bag or basket, or backpack. Make sure that they don’t wear any loose clothing so that nothing can get caught in the chain or wheels.
ROAD SAFETY & CYCLING SKILLS
Before heading out on the road, your child should have the necessary bike handling and road safety and awareness skills. You can teach these to your kids yourself or find courses in you area.
LEARN THE STREETCODE
Young cyclists need to learn what road signs mean, how to deal with traffic circles, pedestrian crossings and intersections, and understand when to give way. You can start teaching them these things even before they learn to ride e.g. when out driving or walking. Familiarize yourself with the Street Code – our guide to safe, responsible cycling and SA road rules. These are just some of the rules kids should know. Read through the UK’s Tales of the Road: Cycling Highway Code Booklet with your kids, it is a great resource to teach them road safety and awareness. Please be aware that some of the road signs are only for the UK.
FIND COURSES AND TRAINING
Find out if cycle training is available at your child’s school – this is the best way for them to gain confidence and learn the skills and knowledge needed to stay safe on the road. There are also private courses for kids in cycle safety and skills.
PLANNING A FAMILY BIKE RIDE
Whether you’re going on a family outing or just down the road to the shops, cycling can add a sense of adventure to journeys usually done on foot or by car.
FIND THE SAFEST ROUTE
When cycling with kids, it is best to avoid very hilly routes, busy roads or complicated junctions. Rather plan your journey around quieter roads and cycle paths. Remember that if the road looks too busy, you can always get off your bike and walk. There are also many traffic-free routes and kid friendly places to ride like bike parks, city parks, shared use paths and nature trails.
CHECK THE ROUTE BEFOREHAND
When cycling a new route on the road, it is best to practice the journey on the weekend when the roads are likely to be quieter. Make sure you don’t get lost and plan some options for short cuts. Check out the surface of the path. Greenways and nature trails can have variable surfaces that are not suitable for all bikes
DON’T GO TOO FAR
It’s better that everyone enjoys themselves on a short ride and comes home eager to go on the next trip.
MAKE IT INTERESTING
Children can get bored so plan lots of pits stops and breaks along the way – short, frequent breaks are better than one long break half-way. For younger kids, have a few games, like I-spy, to play along the way and stop at a playground or park, especially one with a café or ice-cream shop!
TAKE A FRIEND
It’s more of an adventure if your child has a friend to cycle with – though make sure that they’re at roughly the same level when it comes to bike skills.
OUT ON THE ROAD
Accompany your kids until they gain confidence and are old enough to cycle by themselves. Younger children should always be accompanied by an adult. When cycling on the road with children, take up a position behind them. If there are two adults in your group, it’s a good idea to have one at the back and one in front of the children. Encourage older kids to cycle with friends.
GO SLOW – KEEP TOGETHER
Let the slowest cyclist set the pace: this may be a child or an adult who hasn’t cycled for a while.
TAKE SNACK AND DRINKS
It’s important to keep their energy and spirit levels up.
PROTECT KIDS FROM THE ELEMENTS
Keep children warm when a young child is on the back of a bike, they won’t be generating heat like the person doing all the pedaling! Even on a fine day, take extra clothes and waterproofs – just in case. The same goes for making sure that they are not overheated. Find out more on cycling with kids on board…
Ready for the next step?
Meet Mariska, the maker behind the cool, new bike-bag brand, Pieta Designs.
Win two tickets to this year’s Bicycle Film Festival – Cape Town!
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