There are allegedly 800 million bikes in the world, double the amount of cars, and they are a very efficient and eco-friendly way of getting around. Children love the speed and independence gained from having a bike, no matter how small they are, and BMX and mountain biking have re-invigorated generations of cyclists who just used to use them to go to school on.
However, on increasingly more crowded roads, cyclists are at risk of accidents and children especially, generally because they don’t have the right protective kit on or simply aren’t seen by the motorist.
According to Transport Research Laboratory data, child cyclists make up just 6.6% of road cyclists, yet they account for a disproportionate number of accident deaths. Government figures show that child cyclists are more than three times more likely to die on Britain’s roads than adult cyclists and that 70% of all cycling deaths and over half of all cycling injuries involve a head injury.
Ways to minimise the risks to your child
- Research has demonstrated that helmets can reduce the severity of head injuries by up to 85%. Invest in one – some schools have it mandatory for all children who cycle to school to have one – it could save their life. (Watch our video on Cycle Helmet Safety.)
- If you let them choose from the multitude of funky patterns available now, they’ll be more likely to wear it.
- Encourage them to wear riding gloves and knee and elbow pads to protect joints and ‘knock zones’. This is especially important in warm weather when riding about in a T-shirt and shorts, or when first learning to ride without those all important stabilisers!
- Bikes are often missed in rear view mirrors and especially on junctions, so give your child high-visibility clothing and reflective sashes to increase their visibility.
- Put lights and reflectors on the front and rear of their bike and on the spokes. Keep them clean or they won’t be seen! Push your bike if the lights run out, there’s no such thing as ‘just a short distance’.
- Attach a bell or a horn to the bike. This is especially useful when pedestrians step onto the road or cycle lane without checking.
- When parking a bike, make sure your child does it on the pavement, not on the kerb, as leaning over can put them in the path of a car.
Basic Bike Checks For Safe Cycling are simple things and should become second nature for your child each time they ride their bike. Most children love to tinker with their bikes and get good and greasy doing it, so encourage them to be their own mechanic. Look at it as a good weekend bonding opportunity for Dads.
Basic Bike Checks:
- Pump up tyres and replace worn or damaged ones.
- Loose, rusty or worn chains can come off easily. Keep them oiled and check for wear.
- If you take the saddle off when you lock the bike up, make sure the quick release is good and tight when you put it back on!
- Make sure the spokes are not loose as this could cause wheels to wobble.
- Ensure handlebars are straight and tightened properly.
- Check brake blocks for signs of wear, and brake cables for wear and tension.
When you want to teach your children basic road safety on a bike, there’s no better way than by example. Either you or your partner should go out with them and explain everything that’s going on and what you’re doing and why. Keep them in front of you so you can see them at all times.
Make sure both you and your child follow these guidelines when cycling on the road:
- Use pedestrian/pelican crossings where possible to change direction.
- Watch out for roadworks and make it clear with hand signals that you are going to swing out round them.
- Junctions are hot spots for cycle accidents as cars can pull out onto the road you are on without seeing you – be aware that they are there so you can stop if they can’t.
- Stick to the cycle lanes where they are marked, just watch out for pedestrians.
- Give parked cars a wide berth in case they decide to open their doors onto you.
- Drain covers and grates become very slippery in the rain, as do some types of road and pavement surfaces, so watch out for those.
- Don’t listen to music while cycling or worse still, talk on the phone. Your attention and ability to hear oncoming traffic will both be impaired.
- Explain that traffic lights apply to cyclists too, and they are breaking a law by riding through a red light.
- Watch out for dogs – they love to chase things and bikes are often fair game!