Cycling is becoming more and more popular with people of all ages, including children. Whether they’re heading out on their bikes with their friends or going on rides with their families, they love to cycle. It’s great news for their health and the environment.
Naturally, you may start worrying about bike safety for kids. One of the best ways to ensure they get the opportunity to learn how to cycle safely is to introduce a scheme at school. After all, schools don’t just educate kids — they teach them all kinds of life lessons.
A good cycling scheme will teach children the skills they need to ride with confidence, how to check their bikes are in top condition and ready for the road, and how to deal with traffic and other hazards.
Cycling safety schemes for schools
The most popular scheme, administered by the Department for Transport, is Bikeability. You might have heard it called the Cycling Proficiency Test in the past.
Bikeability will help pupils improve their cycling skills and learn how to ride safely on today’s roads. There are three levels, so children with similar skills and experience can be grouped together and get the most out of the scheme.
Schools can hold classes for pupils inside or outside of school hours. The classes are taught by registered instructors and a certificate is awarded upon completion.
Here’s what you need to know about setting up Bikeability in schools:
- If your school wants to introduce Bikeability, you must first find a local course provider.
- All your instructors must be qualified National Standard Instructors. They must train children according to the National Standard.
- Your school needs to have the correct insurance, child protection policies and risk assessment processes in place. Evidence of these must be shown before your Bikeability scheme can begin.
Bike to School Week
Bike to School Week is a scheme by the charity Sustrans. It’s often used to introduce the idea of daily cycling to pupils and celebrate any existing cycling activities a school has in place.
Teachers can download a resource pack and use it to run activities over the course of the week, tailoring them to each year group. Kids will be able to think about the pros and cons of their different journeys to school, learn how beneficial cycling is for the environment and their health, and get guidance on bike safety.
This ensures they have the practical skills to check their bike is roadworthy before they set off, giving kids, parents and teachers peace of mind.
Go-Ride for Schools
Available as an after school club or a PE activity during school hours, Go-Ride is a scheme by British Cycling which offers coaching sessions for pupils, away from traffic on the roads.
The sessions can be taught by an external coach or a teacher from your school, as long as they are British Cycling qualified.
Teachers will run the sessions using workbooks. These contain activities and skills tests, which can be tailored to the age and ability of each group. The activities are set out across seven levels, each one increasing in difficulty.
Kids will learn how to improve skills like balance and coordination, which will boost their confidence, whether they plan to ride to school in future or just cycle for fun in their spare time.
Encouraging healthy exercise
The best kind of activity for everyone — especially kids — is something fun which doesn’t feel like a chore.
Cycling fits this description perfectly. It can be a solo activity or a social one; it can be about function and it can be about fitness. For some kids, it’s a viable option for travelling to and from school each day, while others may prefer to join a cycling club.
Bike safety schemes will help encourage kids to exercise and build their confidence in a safe environment. They’ll get better self-esteem from improving their skills over time.
Finding out more about bike safety for kids makes sure they can cycle in a way which suits them and their families. Everyone is more likely to stick with it when the peace of mind is there. Kids will always want to do more of the things they enjoy, so focus on fun.
The health benefits of cycling:
- It improves cardiovascular fitness
- It improves the function of vital organs like the lungs and heart
- It boosts the immune system
- It’s low impact, which means it’s not weight-bearing and the chance of injury is reduced
- It reduces levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases levels of endorphins (the feel-good hormone)
More benefits of cycling:
- It’s efficient — kids can travel to and from school and exercise at the same time
- It’s low-cost
- It’s good for the environment — no petrol and no fuel emissions
- It’s fun — lots of children enjoy cycling so much that they don’t even realise they’re exercising
Children’s bike recommendations
Finding the right bike will do a lot to help kids get into cycling — a quality bike will be used again and again, even passed down between siblings.
It’s also important for safety reasons, because the best bike for each child will depend on their age, height and size. Children should not grow into bikes; the bike should be the perfect fit when they try it out.
|3–5 years||90–100mm||single-speed||12 inches|
|4–6 years||100–120mm||single-speed||16 inches|
|6–9 years||110–130mm||three-speed hub||20 inches|
|8–12 years||140–150mm||three-speed hub||24 inches, off-road tread|
|12+ years||150–160mm||five or six-speed derailleur||26 inches, off-road tread|
What to look for in a child’s bike:
- It should be upright when the child is riding it
- It should have pneumatic tyres which are pumped up, not flat
- It should have two working brakes which are easy for a child to operate — use your little finger to try and move the lever if you want to test this out
- It should have ball bearings for the wheels, bottom bracket, and headset
Always look for safety and quality, rather than novelty features. Keep it simple.
Road safety rules
The number one reason people are put off cycling is traffic on the roads. But accidents involving child cyclists are rare, especially if they’ve taken part in a scheme at school.
Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, there are some simple bike safety rules you can emphasise to kids:
- Children need to know what makes a bike roadworthy and be able to check their own before their journey.
- Bikes should have working brakes, lights and reflectors, and the tyres should not be flat.
- When cycling in the dark, a white front light and red rear light are required by law.
What to wear
- A helmet will protect the head. It shouldn’t be too tight or too loose.
- High visibility clothing, such as a vest or band worn over clothing, will ensure they can be seen from a distance.
On the road
- It’s important that children can see motorists clearly, and the motorists can see them. Encourage them to signal clearly and make eye contact with drivers.
- Cycle paths should be used wherever they’re available.
- Having a bell on the bike will make pedestrians and other cyclists aware and prevent any clashes.
- Extra care should be taken in wet weather, when surfaces are more likely to be slippery — it takes longer to stop in those conditions.
Having the right storage to put bikes away safely
It’s important to give kids what they need to be able to ride a bike safely and with confidence. It’s also crucial to provide a secure, accessible shelter where they can store their bikes.
After all, parents are more likely to give their children permission to cycle to school if they know bikes can be locked up easily, out of the way until school has finished.
As a specialist provider of commercial bike storage, we understand the importance of having a shelter which suits the needs of your individual project. We deliver a complete service, which includes free site surveys and full installation, and all of our products meet the required British standards.
Work with The Bike Storage Company to ensure safe bike shelters for schools today.