Saddle up for safer cycling

Cycling a fun and healthy way to spend time with your child. It’s also one of the easiest ways to get your child more active.

Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wants to remind parents about the health benefits of cycling, and how to keep your child safe.

Cycling has many benefits for children such as improved health, confidence and concentration. Cycling causes less strain and injuries than most other forms of exercise and most people know how to ride a bike because once you learn, you don’t forget!

It’s also a fun way to get fit – and good for getting the one hour a day of exercise your child needs every day.

But with any fun activity there can be knocks and bumps. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 11% of cycling accidents happen to children – a good reason to make sure your child is protected whenever they go out on bike.

Dr Sooraj Natarajan, Basildon and Brentwood CCG's clinical lead for paediatrics,  said: “Children will always have mishaps. It’s part of learning as they grow up. But there are things you can do to help keep them safe. The first is to make sure they wear a well-fitted helmet that meets the British Standards. This will protect your child’s head should they take a fall.

“The helmet should be a snug fit and positioned squarely on your child’s head. It should sit just above their eyebrows, not tilted back or tipped forwards and be securely fastened by straps, with only enough room for two fingers between their chin and the strap. Be sure that the straps aren’t twisted. Don’t forget knee and elbow pads either!

“Secondly, watch how your child rides their bike to assess their basic cycling skills and judgement. That way, if they need extra help you can practice with them. If you have a younger child, it’s important to walk with them and act as their eyes and ears for any potential danger.”

More safety tips include:

  • Replace your child’s helmet every five years. Don't buy a secondhand helmet – it may be damaged and may not protect your child properly.
  • Make sure the bike fits: When your child is sitting on the bike with their feet on the pedals, there should be a slight bend in the knee when the pedal is closest to the ground.
  • Wear brightly coloured clothing and reflective gear. This will make your child more visible to pedestrians, other cyclists and cars.
  • Tyres, brakes and gears. Make sure there is enough air in the tyres, the brakes and gears work, the chain isn’t loose, and wheels and bolts are tight.
  • Keep eyes and ears open. Watch for vehicles going in and out of driveways and side streets.
  • Keep both hands on the handlebars (except when signalling). Make sure your child carries books and other items in a backpack or bag designed to fit on a bicycle or carry them for your child if they are younger.
  • Stop before crossing. Make sure your child stops before crossing the street, entering a road, or turning. Look left, right, left, and behind for traffic, including pedestrians, bicycles, and cars.

Mr Natarajan added: “Children under the age of ten aren’t generally able to manage traffic situations on their own, and may be safest cycling on the pavement or cycle track.”

However safe you think you are accidents can happen. Fortunately, many cycling accidents can be treated at home with a first aid kit. But if you think your child may need medical help, call NHS111. This service offers advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can advise you where to go if your child has experienced a bang, knock or sprain. All you have to do is dial 111 to talk to the NHS.
Find more information about cycling safety here 

Bikeability is today’s cycle training programme. It’s like cycling proficiency, but better! Your child’s school may already have signed up to receive Bikeability sessions. Contact the school direct to find out if sessions are scheduled. Find local advice on cycling in Essex here

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