Most children love to cycle, and it's a great way for them to keep fit and healthy. It takes a while to learn, but once they've got a bike many children will want to push the boundaries, cycling further and faster. With a few safety tips, you can help them learn to cycle responsibly.

Did you know?

  • Young children aren't ready to go on the roads until they're appropriately trained, for example through the Bikeability scheme. Children completing Bikeability Level 2, typically at around 10-11 years, should be able to demonstrate the skills and understanding to be able to make a trip safely to school, work or leisure on quiet roads.

  • Some children think they're 'uncool,' but cycle helmets are likely to save their lives in a crash. The chance of a child dying in a cycle accident, or suffering serious head injury, is lower if they are wearing a helmet.

Babies, toddlers and very young children.

These little ones aren't ready to cycle yet, although some parents like to take their children out on bikes with them. 

Baby cycle seats. There are a number of cycle seats you can buy for babies and young children. If you’re buying a seat for your baby, it should comply with safety standards. If you get them a helmet too they’ll be protected even if you do have an accident.

  • Use one of the special child seats readily available from good cycle dealers and child-care shops. Look for one that conforms to BS EN 14344:2004, the British Standard for "Child Seats for Cycles".

  • Seats which conform to BS EN 14344 are designed to carry children who are between 9 - 22 kg's (roughly 9 months - 5 years of age) in weight or between 9 - 15 kg's. Make sure your child is within the weight range of the seat you choose.

  • If you’re not used to carrying a child, you should remember that the additional weight can affect the way you cycle. It’s a good idea to practice on a private road or in a park first. Even though they’re strapped in, a helmet is essential. Lead by example by wearing one yourself.

Road safety. If you’re an experienced cyclist you’ll probably know the roads well. It goes without saying that if you cycle carefully and make sure you wear reflective clothing, your baby or toddler will be much safer in their cycle seat.

Practice. Having the extra weight on your bike can change the way you cycle. You might want to have a practice on quiet roads or off the road before heading out. It can also be a good way to get your child used to the helmet and child seat.

First bike

By the age of five many children will have started riding a tricycle or even a bicycle, usually with stabilisers. They are getting better balance, but can still fall off very easily! 

Helmets are a must for everyone, including toddlers in child cycle seats. A helmet can prevent serious head injuries if your child falls off a bike. It's also a good idea for them to see adults setting a good example, so if you wear a helmet you can help them see how 'cool' helmets are!

Off-road. It can be fun to explore your local area and find some safe places for your child to practice cycling. Local parks, paths, and gardens can all give your child a safe place to ride until they’re old enough to cycle on the road.

Exploring by bike (children aged about 7-10)

Children of this age will probably try to push the boundaries a bit - they want to ride further and faster! They're still a bit too young for road cycling, but with the right equipment and safety tips they can have great fun on their bikes while staying safe. 

Helmets! They'll probably be tired of hearing this by now, but they need to put their helmet on every time they go out. Some children might still need help doing up the straps and making sure the helmet is secure. It's not worth the headache if they have an accident without one!

Children have better coordination and control at this age, so they'll be getting more confident on their bike. They're still not ready to cycle in traffic, though, even if they're with Mum and Dad.

Cycling confidence (Children aged 11 and up)

Many children at this age will want to cycle to and from school, or go out on their bike with friends. It's OK for them to ride on the road – but they should be properly trained to cope with traffic – and there's lots you can do to help prepare them for the risks.

Most schools now offer cycle training for children. If you can encourage them to do the training, they'll build their confidence and be able to deal with the road risks more easily.

A working bike is a safe bike! Doing tire checks, brake checks, and looking for damage are all part of owning a bike. If you do these checks with your child you can teach them how to recognise problems and (if you know how!) help fix them.

It might not always be stylish, but high-visibility clothing saves lives – fluorescent for daytime and reflective for after dark. Even during the daytime, bright jackets are easier to spot than dull ones. Make sure drivers can always see your child by making them stand out.

It's easy to forget that cyclists can be dangerous too. Help your child learn about the risks of the road by talking to them about their responsibility. Not riding on pavements and checking for pedestrians and other cyclists is a crucial part of their learning to ride.

Cycle training

If you’d like to get your child cycling, cycle training can give them the confidence and skills they need to ride safely.

Bikeability is one of Cycling England’s flagship schemes. Children can sign up to it at different levels, depending on their age and cycling ability.

Cycle Training Wales teaches children and adults in Wales how to ride, and also how to maintain their bikes.

Cycling Scotland offer courses for children in Primary 6 or 7. The courses teach them how to safely cycle to school on the roads.

More information

  • FREE DOWNLOAD: Colourful cycling - Riding a bike is great fun! Colour the mum and child going for a bike ride. What colour will you paint the helmet? For 3-5s.