A lesson in cycling on the road safely

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How knowledgeable are your children about road safety? Do you let them cycle on the road and if so, what age did you let them? There are issues I have been dealing with over the school holidays and I am so glad I did.

road safety, cycling on the road, dadbloguk, dad blog, Bikeability
Discovering my children would not get to undertake Bikeability training at school, I paid for them to do it myself.

The beginning of this tale goes back a few months. Most weekends I will accompany both of my children on a short cycle ride. It mostly consists of cycling across some common land but there are a couple of short stretches on quiet, residential roads and a handful of junctions to cross.

Helen, my 10 year old daughter, was getting increasingly frustrated with me for insisting she stays where I can see her and stop at every single junction. Time and again I spoke to Helen and her sister about road safety and explained to them the rules motorists adhere to and the dangers to be aware of.

Only thing is, I could tell little of this was sinking in. I needed to come up with a different solution. Considering Helen’s age and the fact she will naturally gain more independence in the years to come, I needed her to understand road safety and pitfalls to avoid.

Like most kids, mine have an aversion to listening to their parents. If they get advice from someone else, well that’s different. They’ll listen to that.

I thought about how I learned about road safety during my own childhood. It occurred to me that I wasn’t allowed to travel far from home until I had undertaken the Cycling Proficency test.

I didn’t particularly want to apply this all-or-nothing approach to my kids, but I knew both of them needed to know about road safety. I made inquiries about when Helen and Izzy might do the Cycling Proficiency test at school. 

At this point I made a couple of interesting discoveries. Firstly, Cycling Proficency has been replaced by a scheme called Bikeability. The name change came as no surprise. What did surprise me was that their school does not offer Bikeability training. There was nothing else for it, I was going to have to arrange and pay for this myself and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

Over the past week, I’ve spent three mornings on some quiet residential streets with Helen, Izzy and a superb instructor called Jonathan. It may have cost me the grand total of £180 but I don’t see it as a cost. It was a fantastic investment.

Among other things, the kids were shown the correct position to ride on the road, how to pass parked vehicles, how to handle left and right hand turns and so on. The instructor insisted I also take part so I could see what the kids learned and experience it for myself.

It was brilliant. The kids got to experience cycling on both a school playground and real roads with an instructor at the front and me at the back.

As Jonathan pointed out to me, if they had done this at school, they’d have gone off in groups of six at a time and had to take it in turns to do all the manoeuvres. Done this way, they had a lot more attention in a managed environment where the ratio of grown-ups to children was one to one.

Yes, this was mostly done for the benefit of Helen. She is, after all, getting to an age where she is seeking independence. Izzy is too young to be let on any roads unaccompanied and there were a couple of bits of the course she didn’t do in deference to her age. I fully expect her to do a similar course or maybe a refresher when she is a little older

This was a managed environment and safety was a major priority. It was a great introduction to road safety and cycling on roads and both Helen and Izzy know their limits and why they aren’t allowed to do certain things.

For me, this was an awesome reminder about road safety. It was an equally awesome reminder about how to stay safe on two wheels. As for Helen and Izzy, they enjoyed the experience and I hope they will think differently in future. I hope they have taken home the road safety message. I hope they will cycle safely and I also hope they will in future understand why I tell them not to distract me and not to bicker with each other when I am driving the car and approaching a junction.

Yes, this experience was about so much more than learning how to cycle safely on the roads. It was expensive, but I think it was worth every penny I spent.

4 thoughts on “A lesson in cycling on the road safely”

  1. Our school didn’t do cycling proficiency when i was there. I just learnt by myself. I don’t recall my mum teaching me. N’s school does it in tear 6, but i expect he’ll be cycling to school himself in year 5 and he’s been cycling on rural roads for the last couple of years with me, and more recently with my brother who’s very strict and did cycling proficiency which was brought in at school after i left. My brother is quite impressed with N’s riding and understanding but it is on generally quiet although fast roads with big farm vehicles. I’m hoping the school course will increase his theoretical knowledge and give more structured learning but i think a lot of what he knows is down to general talking while I’m driving and seeing what other road users are doing. He certainly knows the things that all the cycling clubs do round here which annoy car users lol

    1. It’s interesting. Every family has a very different approach but I basically wasn’t allowed to cycle anywhere my parents couldn’t see me until I had completed cycling proficency. I think that was a bit of a blunt tool to use, truth be told, but I do see the logic. Interesting thing is, in our old house, on the fringes of London, we saw kids doing Bikeability training all the time because the chosen route for it was at the end of our road. None of them were kids from Helen and Izzy’s school. For them, it was worth doing, they took a lot out of it. Sounds like N has learned a lot already. here’s hoping he has a successful cycling career!

  2. I love your point about how they won’t listen to a parent. I think our police department offers something but in a group setting. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get more formal about their road training!

    1. You know what, I have come to appreciate your role as parent is often as facilitator. We all have to accept kids won’t necessarily listen to us because they want to make their own way in the world. If you won’t listen to me, I’ll find someone you will listen to! That was, I admit, part of the psychology here. Good luck with your kids’ own road training. It has to be done.

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