Article by Siobham Norton, i News
The moment your child learns to ride a bike is a landmark event. But as spring finally comes out to play, how many bikes have been gathering dust since Father Christmas lugged them halfway across the world? Come to think of it, how long since the grown-ups took theirs out for a spin?
It’s easy to let cycling fall by the wayside, especially if you have concerns about traffic safety and pollution.
But studies show that the health benefits far outweigh the risks. A major study published in the British Medical Journal in 2017 found that cycling to work resulted in a 41 per cent lower risk of dying overall than commuting by car or public transport, with huge reductions in the risk of developing heart disease or cancer.
“When you have a busy family life, it can be tempting to jump in the car to ferry everyone around. But swapping just a few journeys to travel by bike can be much easier than you think,” says Chris Bennett, head of behaviour change at cycling charity Sustrans.
“Whether you’re a keen cyclist or just getting back in the saddle, there’s no denying that cycling is a fun-filled and easy activity for the whole family. And, once you’ve invested in a bike and some basic kit, it costs very little but provides many health benefits.”
Cycling with children – Top tips
- Plan your journey in advance. Choose a smooth, flat route and avoid steep hills and busy roads where possible. For less confident cyclists, why not try to stick to quiet roads or cycle paths? Sustrans’ well-signed National Cycle Network passes through the centre of every major town in the UK and more than a third of the routes are traffic-free, with paths along disused railways, canal towpaths and forest tracks.
- Keep children motivated by making each cycle ride a bit different. For younger kids, have a few games up your sleeve, such as I Spy, and stop at a playground or park for a well-earned break. In addition to this, it’s important to bring a selection of snacks and drinks along to keep children’s energy and spirits up.
- Ride in a line with children in the middle of adults for maximum protection and visibility. If there’s only one adult, they should be at the rear, keeping an eye on all of the kids cycling in front.
- Get in the habit of checking the whole family’s bikes regularly. Simple and regular maintenance checks will result in hassle-free, safe riding for everyone.
- Make sure you purchase a bike that is the right size for your child. Try to avoid the temptation to buy a bike which is too big, so that they can “grow into it”. A large bike will be more difficult to control and can put young children off cycling.
- Cycle training does help. There are plenty of training courses available for both children and adults to take part in. They’re a great way of improving confidence and providing everyone with improved traffic awareness and knowledge. For more advice on getting started and route inspiration, visit sustrans.org.uk.