Learning to ride
Learning to ride a bike is an important step in a child’s development. This page provides information about teaching your child how to ride a bike safely.
In order to ride safely in traffic a bike rider needs to be able to manage all the following simultaneously.
- Control the bike on different road surfaces.
- Be able to deal with obstacles safely.
- Be aware of and predict the traffic movement around them.
- Understand the road rules that apply both to bike riders and drivers.
- Make safe, split-second decisions.
Children do not have the ability and experience to do all of these things simultaneously and consistently until age 12 or 13. Like young drivers, they need plenty of supervised practice before gaining their independence.
Tips to help your child ride safely
To get your child started follow these tips.
Parents should ensure that a child’s first bike is the right size and be prepared to change the child to bigger bikes as they grow.
When introducing a child to riding, parents should be prepared to spend a lot of time supervising while the child masters the skills of balancing, steering and braking. Choose a flat, open space away from traffic with a surface that is suitable for falling on. A helmet should be worn whenever the child rides.
Lots of practice
Once the basic skills are mastered, the child should be given as many opportunities as the family can manage to ride under supervision. Use shared paths and bike paths. If a child is under 12, an adult supervising them can legally ride on the footpath. Remember to give way to pedestrians on footpaths and shared paths.
Be aware of driveways
Parents should demonstrate to children that driveways and intersections must be approached with caution. Riding on to the road from a driveway is particularly risky for children as parked vehicles can block the presence of oncoming vehicles.
Support Bike Ed
Parents should find out if their child’s school teaches Bike Ed to children in grades 4, 5 and 6. Many schools would appreciate parental help in running the on-road component of Bike Ed.
Don’t ride at night
Children should not ride at night. Special equipment (lights, visibility vests), acute traffic awareness, understanding of driver behaviour and sophisticated skills are needed.
Parents need to observe their child’s cycling behaviour when they are alone or with one or more friends to assess their readiness for more independent cycling.
Children & bicycle seats
It is legal to carry people, including children, on a bicycle, but they must sit on a seat designed for passengers.
Age restrictions do not apply, however there may be age or weight restrictions described by the manufacturer of the bicycle passenger seat.
A bike rider can tow a trailer attached to the back of their bicycle as long as the bike rider is 16 years or older. The passenger in the trailer must be under the age of 10 and the passenger must also be wearing a securely fitted bicycle helmet.
Programs for children & young people
We developed the Bike Ed program to teach young school children how to ride a bicycle safely.
Bike Ed is delivered in schools and community settings and is designed to help children aged 9–13 years develop the skills they need to ride safely and independently on roads and paths.
For more information, visit Bike Ed.
The Ride2School program is delivered by Bicycle Network Victoria. Ride2School is a behaviour change program which aims to increase the number of students walking and riding to and from school.
Ride2School supports the implementation of Bike Safety Education Programs in schools, as this program equips young people with the skills and knowledge to ride to and from school safely.
The program reaches over 2,000 schools and over 700,000 students nationally.
For more information, visit the Bicycle Network Victoria website.
Secondary school resources
VicRoads provides helpful classroom activities, suggestions for school activities and parent information sheets.
For more information, visit Secondary School Resources.
Adult bicycle training
Training is not compulsory for bike riders but is available for those who are interested. Wilcare Services and Austcycle are two cycle training providers that offer bike rider training to adults.