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.
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 Firstly, Cycling Proficency has been replaced by a scheme called Bikeability.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.