Many families have picked up biking in recent months, but how do you actually stay safe while cycling in London? Here are a few tips for how to keep you and your kids safe when exploring the capital by bike.
7 safety tips while cycling in London with kids
- Spend time practising
- Teach your child basic traffic rules
- Always think safety
- Plot a safe cycle route
- Consider bike insurance
- Adapt to your child
- Get the essential safety equipment
This article is part of a paid collaboration with Laka Collective Bicycle Insurance.
All thoughts and opinions are 100% mine.
1. Spend time practising
The first cycle training is all about keeping the balance, turning, braking, stopping and getting off the bike. Take your child to a quiet, car-free local area in the initial phase. Once the basic skills are in place, you can try the bike on shared footpaths and bike paths until they gain the skills and confidence to cycle near roads with traffic.
2. Teach your child basic traffic rules
Review the basic highway code with your child, and be consistent in following the rules yourself:
- Roll the bike over crossings
- Keep a good distance from other road users
- Don’t jump red lights
- Wear a helmet
- Show signs of turning right or left
- After dark, use a white front light and a red backlight
- Give way to pedestrians
- Stop and wait for cars to pass if the road is narrow
3. Always think safety
Cycling in London you always need to think about safety. Even if the kids impress you with their cycling-skills, you need to keep in mind that they are still developing their ability to anticipate danger and risk. In the beginning, when your child first starts out cycling you should stay clear of roads with traffic. Later when you start cycling on roads, always try to stay behind and slightly to the right of the child. When a car is about to pass, go a little further out in the road to increase the car’s distance and the child’s safety zone. At the same time, tell the child to keep well to the left.
Safety checklist when cycling on roads with children
- The adult should cycle behind, slightly to the right to shield the child
- Move further to the right to block cars from passing if needed
- When crossing a junction the adult should move upfront
- Always stay in a single line when cycling as a group
- Adults to take responsibility signalling to other road users
- Give clear instructions to children – explain to children what you are doing and why
- Stay close enough for cars not to pass between the cyclist (with enough room not to bump into each other)
- A good tip is to get a mirror mounted on the bike, which will give you a full overview of cars coming from behind.
4. Plot a safe cycle route
Explore the local area, and try to find safe cycle routes in London where your child can avoid heavily congested roads. Traffic-free bicycle paths, shared footpaths and forest roads are sensible choices. Start with short trips in the local area, then you can expand the trips over time, taking longer day-trips.
Spend time planning your route avoiding busy roads and complex junctions, and don’t assume that Google Maps’ cycle route suggestions will be safe for children. In our article Family-friendly cycle routes in London, we go into details describing 9 mostly traffic-free bike paths that are safe for children:
- Epping Forest Circular Route
- Richmond park cycle route
- Lewisham to Sydenham via River Pool
- Thames Path going east from Tower Bridge
- Battersea Park Circular Cycle Route
- Central London green belt cycle route
- Regent’s Canal from Little Venice to Camden Lock
- River Lea and Lee Valley to Waltham Cros
- Canary Wharf to Victoria Park
5. Consider bicycle insurance
Finding a safe place to lock your bike is not an easy task in London. Especially when you go on longer bike-trips far away from home, visiting places that you are not familiar with, it can be really difficult to find a good spot to park your bike. We always try to park our bikes close to CCTV, with lots of people passing and using heavy-duty locks to minimize the risk, but you can never really be 100% sure. Having bike insurance can give you peace of mind and give you the extra confidence you need to venture further on your next family cycling trip. Here are the key areas that we look for in bicycle insurance:
- Theft coverage: The risk of theft is always present in a big city like London, so better stay safe than sorry
- Damage cover: Not only for accidents but also if your bikes are vandalised
- Emergency taxi: Transporting everyone back home can get expensive
- Great customer experience: We always double-check independent reviews from customers who made claims
Community-based bicycle insurance
We like the collective cover from London-based Laka Bicycle Insurance because they tick all of our boxes while staying honest with their pricing and insurance terms. Laka adjusts their pricing according to the total claims among their customers; so you might actually see the premium cost go down over time (depending on the total collective claims). If you sign up through our link you’ll get a special deal!
6. Adapt to your child
The cycling distance should be adapted to your child’s level. Children’s cycling skills, physique and attitude vary greatly. Also, pay attention to how difficult the route is. A simple rule is that children manage an average speed of between 5 and 10 km per hour (including small breaks). We usually try to include a few highlights along the cycling route, like having a picnic in the park, exploring a new playground or visiting one of London’s charming city-farms.
With small breaks, 3-4 hours of cycling with kids will be achievable in one day. That means from 15 to 40 km a day depending on what your child is comfortable with.
7. Get the essential safety equipment
Let your child choose between a few different helmet designs, so they don’t end up with a helmet they hate. Also, make sure your child’s bike fits well, test the brakes and get a bell, lights, reflectors.
FAQ Cycling in London for families
Is it dangerous to cycle with kids in London?
Cycling in traffic with young kids in London is generally not recommended. If you go on dedicated cycle paths or shared footpaths you can feel much safer, but always keep a close eye on your children.
Where is the best place to teach a child to bike in London?
What’s the best way to teach a child how to bike?
Start by practising with a balance bike in safe areas away from traffic. When kids are confident on the balance bike the transition to a pedal bike is usually really quick without the need for stabilisers.
What are the benefits of a bike insurance?
Terms vary between different insurance policies, but the main benefit is that you can claim compensation in the case of your bike getting damaged or stolen. In this way, you have peace of mind when going on your cycle trip.
From what age should a child cycle on the road?
Children usually start to understand and read traffic situations from the age of 8-11 after a period of being closely supervised and coached by parents. It’s important to remember that it takes time for a child to develop the ability to anticipate danger and risky situations while cycling on a road. Children should start off cycling on traffic-free cycle paths and gradually progress towards cycling on roads.