Riding with children

Riding can be great family fun, either as an outing or a way to get around. Riding with children also allows you to teach them safe habits from an early age. Even if you are comfortable riding yourself, it can be quite a different experience when riding with young children. This section provides advice on riding with children. It covers babies and toddlers through to preparing older children for riding on their own. 

Riding with babies and toddlers

To be carried on a bike or in a bike trailer, young children must be strong enough to support their head while wearing a helmet. This includes when going around corners, over bumps and when braking. They will usually be at least 12 months old before they have the strength to do this. 
Once your child is old enough to join you on the bike, it can be a wonderful way to get around together. Before long, they may be keen to start on their own set of wheels. 

Youngsters on their own bikes

Balance bikes (without pedals) are great options for toddlers. They are light and simple, and the child can start by simply ‘walking’ the bike along with their feet while sitting on the seat. They offer a great way to learn to balance, which makes the move to pedalling a bike much easier. 

Read about how to teach someone to ride a pedal bike in our Learning to ride section. 

Find a safe place for young children to gain confidence riding their own bike before going out on rides together. Quiet paths, empty car parks or basketball courts are good options.

Once your child can balance confidently, encourage them to practise starting, stopping and riding slowly around obstacles. Build their skills doing hand signals and head checks (looking behind).

Our Getting started and Riding know-how sections suggest drills to practise building bike riding skills. There is also a list of training providers and other resources in our Riding support section. 

Carrying children and things

When you have children with you, you will probably need some way of carrying things on your bike. Even if the child has their own bike, you might need to carry snacks and spare clothes. 

For advice on how to carry children and other cargo by bike, go to our Choosing the right bike for you section. The section covers a range of options for carrying children and other extras. 

Riding with bigger children

Starting out – parks and trails

Once children are riding their own bikes, there are lots of great off-street places to ride. The Where to ride section has more detail about places to ride. 

Here are some tips to make riding with children a positive experience for everyone: 

  • Start easy and keep it fun. Don’t ride too far to begin with. Build up to longer distances as your child develops more stamina.
  • Expect to go slowly (let the slowest person set the pace). Plan to have stops along the way.
  • Plan ahead. Pack snacks, water and weather protection. Choose routes that include public toilets or a café.
  • Have options to cut the ride short to keep everyone happy.

Riding with children is also an opportunity to teach them about road safety, even before you get near the road. Skills and behaviour they learn before getting on roads prepare them to use roads safely later. 

Here are some suggestions on how to ‘teach’ children while you are riding together: 

  • Model good riding behaviour to children. Ride on the left, give way to people walking on footpaths and shared paths, ring your bell and slow down as you approach others.
  • Practise riding skills together. Our Riding know-how section covers skills to practise. 
  • When riding on footpaths, teach your children to be aware of hazards like cars coming in and out of driveways. Adults are allowed to ride on the footpath when riding with children who are aged 12 years or younger. 
  • Start small when introducing new information and skills.

The best way to build children’s bike skills and confidence is to make riding a regular activity.

Moving from off-street to on-street riding

When you ride with your children on streets, you can teach them safe riding behaviour. You will also be able to tell when they are ready to ride on their own. 

When riding on streets with children:

  • Choose low-stress routes that suit their skill level, confidence and maturity. Use quieter local streets and ride in bike lanes where available.
  • Use the footpath to avoid any stressful or complex sections along the route such as crossing a busy road.
  • If there are two adults, have one ride in front and one at the rear, with children in between.
  • If there is only one adult, ride at the rear to keep an eye on the child (or group). Ride slightly to the right of the group so vehicles pass further away. 
  • Call out any instructions well in advance so children have plenty of time to respond.

Practise safe riding behaviour together: 

  • Be visible – use your lights.
  • Be predictable – ride in a straight line away from parked cars or one metre out from the kerb.
  • Be aware – anticipate what is happening, scan around you, look for obstacles.
  • Communicate – use your bell and hand signals.
  • Be in control – be able to stop even if you have right of way.
  • Make sure all helmets are adjusted correctly – teach your child how to adjust their own helmet.

Learn more about safe riding principles and practice drills in our Riding know-how section.  

Preparing children to ride on their own

The more a child rides from an early age, the more capable they will be to ride safely on their own or with friends. 

: image of a boy riding his bicycle on through an intersection.

Each child is different. When deciding whether your child is ready to ride on their own, you will need to consider:

  • their age and maturity
  • how ‘child-friendly’ the local area is to ride (e.g. look for quiet streets and marked road crossings) 
  • their riding skills
  • their understanding of road safety
  • the benefit they will receive from travelling without an adult. 

Try the following to help prepare children for independent riding:

  • Encourage your child’s school to teach Bike Ed.
  • When you ride together, model safe riding behaviour. Talk about what you are doing and why, and what to look out for. Examples include checking for cars backing out of driveways and giving way to people walking.
  • Ride together along routes that children may then ride on their own or with friends so you are both confident they are familiar with the area.
  • Start small and local. For example, let them ride to the playground, then to the shops or to school.
  • Talk about the whole trip, including where and how they lock their bike.
  • Talk about strategies for what to do if something goes wrong, like getting a flat tyre.

Find more useful advice on letting children travel on their own in VicHealth’s brochure How to help your kids get around safely on their own .

Teenagers riding independently

In Victoria, teenagers can no longer ride on footpaths. By law, only children aged 12 years or younger are allowed to ride on footpaths, unless they are riding with a child who is 12 or under. 

: image of a teenage girl riding her bicycle on a local street, with a car behind her.

Riding with children from a young age and teaching on-road skills helps prepare them to ride safely on streets when they become teenagers.

Try these tips to prepare your children to ride safely as teenagers: 

  • Start talking about road rules for bike riding and the basic rules for all road users when children are young.
  • Practise safe riding behaviour together.
  • If they are riding on their own, talk with them about which way they plan to ride to a location. Discuss how they might deal with any tricky sections of the route. 
  • Practical bike riding skills courses are great for building teenagers’ skills for on-road riding. Find a list of providers in our Riding support section.

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