Riding a bike without stabilisers or a parent’s hand to guide them is a childs dream, especially when mum and dad are cycle enthusiasts themselves. Cycling is an enjoyable leisure activity for the whole family, and it gives a sense of freedom not easily found with other sports. But getting a child up and cycling on their own is a task that requires some degree of safety education. Keeping them safe while they are in a parent’s view – and beyond – is necessary to enjoy each ride to the fullest. Fortunately, there are simple steps to take to ensure a child is ready for a more grown up cycling trek.
Selecting and preparing the right bike
It is rarely a good idea to select a bike that a child will eventually grow into. Parents should take the time to pick the wheels that are true fit for their child, based on their height and weight. Nearly all children’s bicycles are adjustable, but it can be a bit of a challenge to know what size is most appropriate to ensure their safety while riding. Experts suggest setting the saddle of the bicycle to a height where the child can touch the balls of their feet to the ground easily. Setting the seat too low makes pedaling more difficult than it needs to be, and may lead to accidents due to disrupted steering. It also means balancing won’t come as easily, leaving children uncomfortable on their ride.
Understanding safety rules
If parents are cycling enthusiasts, they may be aware of the highway safety rules in place for all cyclists. However, failing to pass these pertinent details down to children as they begin to ride on their own is an all-too-common mistake. Cyclist safety rules for the highway are comprehensive which can be overwhelming for young riders. Parents can start with the basics, like signaling, helmet use, and wearing highly visible clothing to get the conversation started. As the child gets more comfortable on two wheels, introduce other topics like being considerate of other road users, riding in small groups, and looking ahead for road obstructions.
Knowing where it is safe to ride
Most parents teach their children to cycle in the comfort of their neighbourhood, near home and in low-traffic areas. As the child gets more balance on the bicycle, venturing out for family or friend rides is often the next natural step. However, major and minor roads present ample opportunities for accidents, especially for young riders. For Surrey parents, finding safe routes that for cyclists of all ages is a breeze. The National Cycle Network offers descriptions for all cycling routes in Surrey, and this should be used as a resource when taking more liberties with a young cyclist.
Recognising why safety education is needed
There are more than 1.9 million people throughout the UK who cycle on a daily basis, and while there are many resources for how to stay safe on the roads, it isn’t often the first discussion among parents and newly cycling children. A bike accident claims specialist recently funded research that offers the stark truth about cycling and accidents, for adults and children alike. The research highlights the reality that most accidents among cyclists take place during a leisure ride, and the majority of those accidents happen on minor and major roads. Cycling paths present the safest way to bike, either as a child or a parent, but factors like weather, road obstructions, and other adverse road conditions create the perfect storm for accidents to occur. Parents should recognise these issues among the cycling community and talk openly with their children about how to stay safe as a cyclist on the road.
Surrey parents have many resources to help in preparing children to hit the roads on two wheels on their own, many of which are provided by organisations dedicated to cyclist safety for the masses. Sustrans, for example, is a well-known advocate for road user safety, working to maintain a portion of the National Cycle Network with help from supporters and community residents. Parents can utilise the resources found on the organisation’s website to gain further insight into how adult and young cyclists can stay safe on the roads, at no cost. Those who want to lend a hand in keeping cyclist safety education and information easily accessible to parents throughout Surrey and the UK may support the organisation through a donation here.