Advice for adults
Cycling is a cheap, environmentally-friendly way to get about – and it keeps you fit.
But every year over 3,000 cyclists are killed or seriously injured in the UK. By taking sensible precautions such as planning routes to avoid busy roads and junctions will help to reduce the risks and make your journey more enjoyable.
If you’re getting a new bike, go to a reputable bike shop, where they can advise on the best type of bike and make sure it’s the right size for you.
If you’ve already got a bike, get it checked to make sure it’s in a safe condition. It’s best to get your bike serviced regularly at a cycle shop.
Check your bike regularly yourself, especially before taking to the road.
Here are four things to do regularly:
- Check brakes and brake blocks or discs to ensure safe stopping in wet and dry weather
- Clean and oil moving parts to keep the bike working smoothly
- Tighten nuts and bolts to prevent any parts working loose
- Make sure lights are working properly and that reflectors are clean. Replace any batteries that don’t give a bright light.
Be seen, be safe
Wear bright clothing, preferably something fluorescent and reflective, to help other road users to see you more easily. Always use lights and reflectors in the dark and in poor visibility.
If you’re new to cycling, or haven’t cycled in a while, it’s a good idea to get some cycle training. To find out what’s available in your area contact your local council’s Road Safety Team.
Plan your routes
Use cycle paths and quiet roads as much as possible; this will make your ride more enjoyable as well as safer. Your council may have a map of local cycle routes.
Care on the road
Take extra care at junctions and give timely, clear signals. Roundabouts are particularly dangerous for cyclists. Always obey traffic lights and signals.
Give lorries and larger vehicles plenty of space and avoid riding along the inside of them, especially near junctions – the driver may not be able to see you. Lorries turning left at a junction present a particular problem to cyclists, as they have a difficult job manoeuvring and have blind spots in their mirrors. Check out our lorries and cyclists factsheet for more information, read our sharing the road resource – and watch the video on this page too.
And finally – give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. If you’re running late, don’t be tempted to rush. Take time – it’s better to arrive late than not at all!
Advice for parents
Most of us remember learning to ride a bike: those first, few triumphant wobbly yards undertaken without stabilisers, our proud mum, dad, or even grandparent looking on and smiling.
Cycling is fun and great way for kids to get fit. But, given the increase in traffic on our roads, it’s understandable that parents can worry about letting their children get about on two wheels – which is why we’ve put together this safety advice.
Getting a bike - size does matter!
Whether your child is five or 15, it’s crucial that they have a bike that is the right size for them. Avoid the temptation to buy one with the idea that they will grow into it.
One of the factors in cycling accidents involving children is loss of control. This is why bike size is important. If a bike is too big and a child can’t touch the ground with the ball of their foot, then the bike is too large for them to control safely.
But equally, don’t get a bike that’s too small – it will make pedalling very tiring and steering clumsy.
A bike is the right size if a child can:
- reach the handle bars without stretching
- sit in a position where they are not leaning too far forward
- reach and easily use the brakes
- touch the ground with the toes of both feet while seated on the saddle.
Obviously, in these times of austerity, not everyone can afford to buy a new bike. So if you’re buying a second hand cycle, make sure you check its condition.
We do recommend that children wear cycling helmets. This is a sensible way of protecting the head, especially with loss of control accidents. But we don’t advise getting a second hand one, unless you a certain it is undamaged. Even the minor cracks that come from dropping helmets can affect their integral strength.
Learning to ride and cycle training
Good places for children to learn to ride a bike are gardens, parks and playgrounds. Avoid steep hills and areas close to busy roads.
Small children may need stabilisers to help them balance initially, whilst some bikes are sold without pedals and the children scoot along. Once they can balance and are taking their feet off the ground pedals are attached.
Steady your child as they start to pedal and run with them, holding the saddle. Gradually let go, but stay alongside them so they think you are still supporting them. Make sure they use both brakes to stop and encourage them to look around before they set off, while riding, and before they stop.
Games, such as following a course or weaving in and out of objects, can also be a good way to help children gain the skills to control and ride a bike safely.
For older children, cycle training helps them gain confidence and to know how to safely control their bikes. Many schools offer Bikeability training in years 5 and 6, if not the Bikeability website can signpost you to training in your area.