Bikeability's tips for cycling with children on roads
24 February 2023 - Learning to Ride
Bikeability aims to make sure everyone feels confident cycling, and they have some great tips to help you feel happier when you’re out and about as a family, with the children.
For short, everyday trips to school, the shops or to see friends, cycling on the roads with your family is a great alternative to driving.
Bikeability instructors have compiled some top tips for getting on the road together.
Think about what you will need before you set out – make sure you have a spare inner tube for every bike, just in case one or more of you gets a puncture. You will also need a basic puncture repair kit, including tyre levers and a pump. You should make sure all your bikes are roadworthy before you leave the house. Bikeability recommends the ABCD check:
- Check there’s enough air in your tyres
- Check your brakes work
- Is your chain running smoothly?
- Are your handlebars facing in the right direction?
Before you go, check if you will need water, extra layers if you think it might get cold, and cycle lights in case it gets dark.
You can also get some cycling practice in before you hit the roads, as instructor Terry Nye suggests. “Practice riding as a group in a park or somewhere first. Plenty of observation, keep your distance, cover your brakes.”
Make sure you can see what your children are doing and that you are all covering your brakes, which means you have one or two fingers resting on your brakes all the time, so you can stop quickly if you need to.
Plan your route first
Whatever your destination, it’s good to have a route in mind before you set out. This way you can check if there are any parts of the route you might not want to cycle and come up with alternative routes. A quiet side road might turn off onto a busy dual carriageway that you don’t want to cycle on. You will be more likely to enjoy your ride if you prepare in advance.
There are lots of ways to plan your route. Sustrans has info on all the routes on the National Cycle Network, just put in your location, the type of route you want, and the distance and it will give you your options. You can find the route planner here.
Cycling UK also has a useful journey planner that lets you choose how quiet your route will be likely to be. There are also lots of apps that will help you with your route, which have the added benefit that you can use them on the go. Some apps worth checking out to help you plan your route are Strava, Komoot and Bike Citizen.
Work together as a team
If you are riding as a family, it’s important to work together as a team and make sure everyone knows what is happening and where they are going. This makes it much easier when you’re cycling, especially on the road. It will also make the experience fun if the whole family has taken part in planning it and is excited to get going!Talk to each other while you’re riding – communication is key, especially if you spot problems ahead. Something as simple as pointing out potholes can help everyone avoid them and save you from extra cycle maintenance!
If your children have had some Bikeability training, get them involved and ask them to show you how to do it.
“Get your Bikeability trained riders to teach parents how they should be riding on the road, and even give a running commentary of what they are doing and why,” says instructor Cate Read.
Road positioning is key
Instructor Lloyd Watkins's advice for positioning is “Parent at the back, ride forward to the junctions and be last through a junction.”
This positioning is key to making sure children are safe on the road when you’re riding as a family. Small children aren’t always spotted by drivers, so by cycling behind them you are not only able to see where they are at all times, but you are also more likely to be seen by drivers coming from behind. If there is just one adult riding with children, then you can ride to the front when approaching a junction and make sure it is safe, then follow so you are the last one through the junction.
If there are two or more adults, one should stay at the back of the group and the other at the front. If you are at the front, make sure you are clear to the adult at the back where you are going – it can be useful to agree on some short verbal commands before you set off.
Take up space
Don’t be afraid to take up space on the road. Make sure you are all cycling at least 0.5m away from the kerb, and the adult at the back will probably want to be even further out to make sure they are noticeable to any approaching vehicles.You should leave enough space between riders to make sure you won’t bump into each other but stay close enough together that a passing car can’t fill the space and split your group up. You should also cycle 1m away from parked cars, to avoid being hit if someone opens the door as you are going past.
Riding as a family
If you want to increase your confidence in cycling altogether, Bikeability family training is a great place to start. Instructors will take you out as a family, helping you learn some skills off-road first, before taking you out on the road to cycle a planned route. You can find out more about the family training here.