Cycling Safety for Kids: A Parent's Guide

Katherine McCallum
min read
Kids cycling in the countryside in Australia

Cycling Safety for Kids: A Parent's Guide

Cyclists are already considered to be vulnerable road users, but did you know that those most at risk of being injured while cycling are between the ages of 10 and 14? This makes teaching our little ones cycling safety a top priority. 

Keep reading for our guide on how to get started with cycling safety for kids. 

Setting up for success: the right equipment

The first place to start your and your child’s bike safety journey is by making sure that they have the correct equipment that suits them, their ability, and their age.

Pick and look after the right bike

The right bike is essential for maintaining safety, especially for growing kids. After all, if they can’t operate it easily, then the risk of accidents increases. Make sure that their bike is the right size for them, by taking into account the wheel diameter as well as their access to the pedals and handlebar. A way to check this before purchasing a bike is to go to a local cycle store with demo bikes for your child to try.

Once your child has the right bike, make sure to take the time to maintain it by ensuring pieces work properly, that the chain is in good condition and lubricated, and the tyres are not showing signs of wear or damage. Older kids can even help you with this, and it provides a great learning and bonding opportunity!

Hammer home about helmets

According to recent studies, only 75% of Australia’s children wear a helmet when cycling. This means that 1 in 4 kids isn’t wearing one, and hopefully they aren’t yours! Wearing a helmet decreases the risk of head, brain, and facial injuries by 65% or more if involved in a collision, and can help to prevent fatalities on our roads.

Therefore, always make sure your child wears one when they ride their bike, and help them to understand how cycle helmets keep them safe. For older kids who think they are “too cool” for them, consider looking at different helmet designs that might be more fashionable, or look to celebrities cycling safely for inspiration. Not only that, it’s mandatory under Australian law.

Stay safe and be seen

The more visible your child is when they are cycling, the safer they will be from other road users. This is especially true when it gets darker, such as in the winter months when we see shorter daylight hours. Make sure that they wear a bright piece of clothing, and when the sun goes down, that they have a light on their bike and reflectors to help them stand out on the road. A hi-vis vest is also a good investment for nighttime cycling.

Bike proficiency

Help your child to feel confident on their bike by increasing their skills and cycling proficiency. The cycling basics for kids include:

  • Being able to pedal without getting wobbly or off-balance
  • Setting off and coming to a stop safely
  • Pedalling with one hand on the handlebars (for signalling)
  • Comfortably looking behind them for hazards while cycling
  • Learning the basic rules of the road

While much of this can be taught at home, you may also wish to look at what cycling courses and initiatives there are for young people in your area. These also help to teach more advanced skills, such as navigating busy and urban areas, in a safe way with a licensed instructor. 

One recent initiative in Queensland is the “Wheely Wise” campaign. Announced in January 2024, it is aimed at children in years 4 and 6, helping to build not only their cycling ability but also build on skills such as route planning, hazard awareness, and how to deal with other road and footpath users. 

Road etiquette and awareness

Children under the age of 16 are permitted to use footpaths for their safety, but they need to be aware that they will be sharing these with pedestrians. If they are approaching from behind, they should ring their bell and move to the right to go around, or if someone is coming towards them, keep to the left. If there is a dedicated cycle path or lane, encourage children to use this whenever possible, and help them to identify how these are signposted in your area. 

If cycling on the road, they should always bike in the same direction as traffic, not against it. Encourage them to think of themselves as a car when biking on the road, stopping at red lights, giving way to pedestrians where possible, and making sure to leave a safe distance between themselves and both parked and moving vehicles. 

Another thing that children should be encouraged to do is to bike with their eyes and their voices. By using their eyes to look around and keeping their head pointed straight ahead rather than looking at the handlebars they can spot any potential hazards early, and then verbally alert others. Using their voice to signal their movements can also help other road and footpath users to be able to anticipate what they are going to do next. 

All this being said, the most important thing when learning road etiquette and awareness as a cyclist is you! Set a good example for cycling safely and with respect for others and your child will quickly learn to do the same. 

Planning safe routes and setting safe limits

When your child is confident and able enough to be able to go out cycling on their own, you’ll need to sit down with them and go through some boundaries before you send them on their merry way. 

Go through where all of the relevant cycle paths and routes are so they know where they can cycle safely, and highlight any busy roads or intersections they should either avoid or take extreme care with. You can also set a curfew for older children to make sure that they are cycling while there is still good light. 

What to do in an emergency

While we never want to think of anything happening to our kids, if they know what to do in an emergency it could save their life as well as others. Teach them to stay calm, assess the situation, and make sure they know how to ring for help from the emergency services and how to signpost their location. 

Have fun!

Remember never to lose sight of the main reason you are teaching your child to cycle safely: to have fun! Make sure that trips out on the bike are enjoyable experiences that you both can enjoy and foster a life-long love of cycling

If you want to understand more about your child’s rights as a cyclist in Queensland, Smith’s Lawyers are happy to help. Give us a call today and get the wheels turning on your enquiry. 

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