27 Oct 2020

Personal Injury

Keeping our children safe on their bikes

As the nights draw in and more children are out on their bikes, Victoria Smithyman, senior associate solicitor in our personal injury department, examines the importance of making sure young cyclists stay safe on our roads.

Cycling can be a great way for children to exercise and get around but parents often worry about how safe it is for children to be out on their bikes on the road and are unsure about the legal issues surrounding child cyclists.

It’s a sad truth but statistically, cyclists are more likely to be harmed than any other road user. Five people die every day on the roads in Great Britain and many more are seriously injured. And following the devastating news last month of a local 16 year-old cyclist who died after colliding with a car on Newport’s Southern Distributor Road, we are keen to do all we can to raise awareness of the importance of road safety, particularly when children are out on their bikes.

We’ve answered some of the most common queries around child cyclists here:

 At what age can children cycle on the road?

There is no legal minimum age for children to ride a bike on the road as it depends on their abilities and confidence. It is highly recommended, however, that parents cycle with their children until both they and their children feel confident enough that they can handle the roads on their own.  Regular practice and formal cycling training will both help them increase their skills and confidence.

Some experts recommend a minimum age of ten years for on-road cycling. Below this age, children are less likely to be able to cope successfully with the joint tasks of managing a bicycle and negotiating traffic situations.

Is cycling on the pavement an option?

Lots of people don’t realise but cycling on the pavement is currently illegal in the UK. As children under 10 are under the age of criminal responsibility, however, it means that they cannot be prosecuted but an adult accompanying them can be served with a fixed penalty notice.

If you are concerned about your child cycling on busy roads, it is worth trying to find an alternative route so that they can be safe without having to resort to cycling on the pavement.

Do all children get cycling training in school?

Many children will have the opportunity to do a cycling training programme in years 5 or 6 that will teach them the understanding and expertise they need to ride their bikes on the road. However, cycling is not currently part of the National Curriculum so not all schools are obliged to offer Bikeability training.

If your child’s school does not offer cycling training, you can arrange it yourself, either on a one-to-one basis or by grouping together with other families. Alternatively, some local councils offer cycle training that is often free of charge.

When your child is ready to cycle unsupervised, it’s important to make sure they know how to be safe on the roads. They must:

  • Always wear a helmet
  • Wear reflective clothing and ensure their bike lights are turned on when cycling in low light. Blinking lights typically identify a bicycle as being different from other vehicles on the road at night.
  • Make sure their tyres have the right tread for the wet and slippery weather conditions that are more common at this time of year.
  • Not cycle too close to the kerb, at least an arm’s length away, to make sure they are easily visible to traffic
  • Keep an eye on what’s around them at all times so they can prepare for junctions, traffic lights, drain covers, potholes, pedestrians, dogs etc.
  • Be predictable and make their intentions clear – check behind them, signal and only manoeuvre when it’s safe to do so
  • Try to make eye contact with other road users, particularly at junctions, side roads and on roundabouts
  • Never undertake a lorry
  • Watch out for car doors
  • Keep their hands on the brakes and be aware of stopping distances

Before they set off, it is worth travelling the route with them a few times so that they are confident and familiar with where they’ll be going. This will also allow you to get a feel for the density of the traffic and any problems on the route.

Where possible, encourage your child to cycle with a friend or older sibling rather than being on their own.

If they are involved in an accident, what should they do?

It’s worth remembering that, even with these precautions, accidents can happen and it’s important for your child to be prepared so they know how to respond in an emergency. Encourage them to:

  • Get out of the road – If possible, move to somewhere safe where they can seek help or medical attention.
  • Take their mobile phones out with them and make sure they know your contact number, their home address and how to make a 999 call.
  • Call the police and get witness details – ask for contact details of any bystanders or other road users who may have witnessed the accident.
  • Take photos – take pictures of the scene of the accident, the other vehicle, the damage to their bike and of any injuries.
  • Seek medical assistance from a GP or local A&E department
  • Write down exactly what happened – including the date and location of the accident, registration plate numbers and all the facts they can remember.

Can I make a claim on my child’s behalf if they have been involved in a cycling accident?

Following an accident, child cyclists can sometimes sustain serious injuries. Also, bikes and bike equipment are expensive to repair and replace, so if the accident was partly or wholly the fault of another person, your child could be entitled to compensation for their injuries, repair costs or replacement value for their bike.

Individuals under the age of 18 cannot file their own personal injury claim so instead a responsible adult, usually a parent or guardian, can claim on their behalf. To find out if we can help you, get in touch with our expert team today.

 

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