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Cycling - Safe & Green

Cycling is a fun, convenient and healthy way to get around. By cycling your child will benefit from reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease. It also helps weight-control, enhances well-being and improves concentration levels in the classroom.

Regular activity is vital for good health but it’s a fact that most of us don’t get enough.

Children should be active for at least one hour on most days. Three out of ten boys and four out of ten girls aren't doing this. Cycling can be a fun way to build more exercise into your childs day. It offers a healthy, flexible, inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to travel for your child and adults alike.

Regular cycling can improve your health. It can:

  • Provide an excellent workout for the heart.
  • Almost halve the risk of a heart attack, by helping to reduce risk factors like obesity, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.
  • Improve mental wellbeing, by helping us to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, promoting self-esteem and reducing stress or insomnia.
  • Build strength, especially in your back and legs.
  • Promote the mobility of hip and knee joints.

By cycling you can make a direct contribution to the local and global environment. By switching your car journeys to cycling, even partially, you are reducing the CO2 emissions that are so harmful to our atmosphere.

You are also helping to reduce noise pollution, traffic congestion, and the need for new traffic lanes and roads.

Most journeys to school are within cycling distances and many more children want to cycle to school than are currently allowed to. The major off-putting factor for most parents is the traffic danger on the roads. One possible way however to help eliviate parents fears, is to encourage children and adults to make use of the cycle routes, provided by the National Cycle Network.

Sustrans is the co-ordinator of this hugely popular network. It offers over 10,000 miles of walking and cycle routes on traffic-free paths, quiet lanes and traffic-calmed roads. Around 75% of the UK population are now  living within two miles of a route! The Network is well signed. It connects towns and villages, countryside and coast, throughout the UK . Over one-third of these routes are completely traffic-free, which is perfect for all, including families and those new to cycling.

Protection: Training
When cycling, basic safety guidelines should be followed — if they are not, then the  results could be devastating. The best way to teach your child these guidelines is to enrol them into a cycling proficiency course. To find out if cycle training courses are provided in your area, ask the Road Safety Officer in your local council for details, or ask in your child’s school.

In September 2006 Cycling England launched Bike ability, (the new cycling proficiency for the 21st Century) as the Award Scheme for cyclists trained to the National Standard for Cycle Training. It's a three badge award scheme designed to give children the skills and confidence to ride their bikes on todays roads.

The National Standard for Cycle Training, which underpins Bike ability, has been designed by the leading experts in the field of road safety as well as cycling. It is designed on similar principles to lessons for motorcycle riders and car drivers, assessing the likely risks and obstacles faced by cyclists at each stage of their development and created training that encourages them to make their journeys with the skills to manage these risks as far as is practicable. 

Protection: Wearing helmets
A young child’s skull is soft and easily injured. So whenever children are riding bicycles, it is important that they are wearing a correctly fitted helmet. Nearly 50% of injuries suffered by cyclists are to the head and face. Helmets help to reduce the numbers of these injuries, and their seriousness. Most cycle injuries are suffered by teenagers or young adults — and many of them were not wearing a helmet because they felt it made them look “uncool”.

When buying a helmet:
There's a wide choice of styles to choose from, but make sure it meets the British (BS 6863 or BS EN 1078) American (ANSI Z90.4 or SNELL) or Australian (AS 2063) National Standards.

  • Take the child to the shop with you, to make sure the helmet fits properly.
  • It should sit two child finger widths above the child’s eyebrows and NOT tilted back or tipped forwards.
  • It should not be too heavy for the child’s head and neck to carry.
  • It should not cover their ears.
  • It must be a snug fit and should remain secure on the head.
  • The straps should be securely fastened and not twisted, with only enough room for two fingers to be inserted between chin and strap.

Children who wear helmets from the moment they start riding their first wheeled toy will be safer from head injury, and are more likely to continue the practice throughout their lives. Use this road safety message: “No helmet, no bike!”

Protection: Visibility
A cyclist that can't be seen on the road is at greater risk of being killed or injured than one that can be seen. This is not just common sense, but the law. At night you must show a white front light and a red rear one, plus a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors. A white front reflector and wheel reflectors are not required by law, but increase your chances of being seen.

Reflective materials should be worn at night and fluorescent materials in the day — clothing made of both is best. Remember, that cyclists are much harder to see than vehicles, so any precaution you can take in order to be visible, could help save your life.

It is also a good idea to fit a bell to your bike which will also help you warn others of your approach.

Protection: Road rules
Children who undergo cycle training courses will be more familiar with road rules, however, all children should be made aware of the basic traffic rules. Children should be taught that just because they are on a bike, it doesn’t mean that they can ignore traffic signs — as they are there for the safety of all road users.

Protection: Awareness
Children should be made aware that wearing a personal stereo or using a mobile phone when cycling, is extremely dangerous. When using these devices, their concentration levels are greatly diminished, and hence so is their safety. Hearing approaching danger is just as critical as seeing it.

Protection: Maintenance
Regularly maintaing your child’s bike (and teaching them how to) is also an important aspect of keeping safe. Check that the tyres are sufficiently inflated and that the lights and brakes are working properly. In an emergency fully functional brakes could mean the difference between serious injury or not.

In 2006 3,765 cyclists aged 0-15 were killed or injured on Britain 's roads. It is therefore extremely important to teach children to take cycle safety very seriously.

Here are a few basic safety tips that can help your child stay safe:

  • Get trained and keep control
  • Wear a helmet
  • Be seen and heard
  • Check your bike
  • Be alert and plan your route
  • Stay legal

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