Going cycling with your family is a great way to spend quality time together. It’s a fun way to unwind at the weekend or during the school holidays, while taking in fresh air and spotting landmarks in the cities, or immersing ourselves in nature. And cycling isn’t just fun for parents with their toddlers and teens, but also younger babies too.
Can I take my baby on a bike?
In the UK, it’s considered safe to take your baby on a bike with you, if they’re over the age of nine months old and can sit up unsupported. The most important thing is that you feel 100% safe cycling with them on board. There are a variety of carrier options to choose from, so be sure to try out different options to see which you feel most comfortable with. The upper limit is restricted by weight rather than age, with seats typically rated for passengers weighing up to around 20kg (44lb). Exceeding the weight limit will make your bike more difficult to handle.
The most popular carriers for parents in UK cities are the rear fitting baby carriers, whereas the most popular for families in the countryside tend to be pull-along trailers. Don’t be tempted to have your baby strapped to your body in a sling or carrier as this isn’t allowed under the Road Traffic Act 1998. You need to have your bike fitted with a suitable device or attachment to make it legal for cycling with more than one person.
- Rear mounted baby bike seats: come in three basic designs; cantilevered from the seat tube; fixed to a rear carrier rack; and fixed directly to the seat tube and seat stays. Those that bolt to the frame (or to a rack that’s bolted to the frame) are more stable and sturdy, but cannot be fitted to bikes with rear suspension. It’s easier to pedal and get on/off your bike with the child seat behind you than in front of you, and some seats will also recline to give a better and more comfortable ride for a sleeping child. Typically the more you pay, the sturdier the seat will be.
- Front mounted baby bike seats: have become popular in Europe and North America. The main benefits are that your baby will have an unobstructed view, and you’ll be able to see and talk to your child more easily. However, they can only be used safely until your child is around two years old (some rear mounted seats can carry children up to the age of six). It’s also difficult to get on and off your bike with a front child seat on it, and steering can be a challenge as it can be difficult to reach around your child.
- Baby bike trailers: are great if you have more than one child or extra luggage to transport. Trailers come in various sizes, and many easily convert into a push buggy, which can make an ideal running buggy. As with bike seats, it’s recommended that a child is able to sit unaided before using a trailer, but some trailers can carry up to around 50kg, so it could last you for years to come. Although trailers can be much more expensive than a bike seat, communication with your little ones is more difficult. But there’s no denying trailers are better in the rain, with the mesh front and clear plastic window.
Whichever child bike seat or trailer you choose, always wear a helmet and follow installation instructions and age/height/weight limits.
Can my children cycle to school?
Cycling can be a fun and healthy way of encouraging children to get away from their screens, and enjoying the outdoors. And learning to ride from a young age will equip children with a skill for life. Cycling to school is a good starting point to get children out and about on their bikes, and there are plenty of benefits of cycling to school:
- Encourages independence and builds confidence
- It’s good for the environment
- Reduces congestion on the road, and around the school gates
- It makes kids more active, so they will likely be more alert in lessons
All children under the age of 12 years old should be supervised if cycling to school. You should ensure children wear a cycle helmet and fluorescent/reflective clothing for safety, as well as having lights on their bike.
Children aged 12 years and over have to cycle on the roads by law. If you’re no longer taking your child to school, it’s a good idea to ensure they have a cycling ‘buddy’, such as a friend from school, when they’re out for safety. As well as being road safe, ensure your child knows how to respond to other risks too, eg. meeting strangers or getting lost. Make sure they have a mobile phone so they can get in touch if they run into trouble. And unfortunately accidents can happen and it’s important to be prepared, so ensure your child is able to respond in an emergency. They should know how to make a 999 call, and they need to know their own address.