How to start cycling to school with kids
Congratulations on deciding to cycle your child to school! You’re joining an ever growing group of parents who are making the switch to a healthier, greener and more enjoyable way to travel each day.
If you’re feeling nervous about your first morning commute, please don’t worry. I’ve been there and know how you feel.
There are some steps you’ll need to take before taking the bikes from the shed.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive step-by-step guide, download our free Starting to Cycle to School Guide.
Decide on your bike to school set up
Do you know how you’re going to get to school yet? Will you carry your child(ren) on your bike or are they going to cycle on their own bikes?
This will depend on a number of factors with as most important the age of your children, the route to school, and the equipment or budget you’ve got available.
If your children can cycle on their own bikes, and the route is suitable for them to cycle with you, great! This is the ideal set up and will give them an energetic start to the day. If they need new bikes, check out our Best kids bikes article.
And don’t forget your own bike!
If your children are not old enough to cycle on their own bikes, check out our guidance on how to carry a child on your bike.
The best ways to transport your kids by bike are:
- Front bike seats - for babies and toddlers
- Front seats on top tube - for 2/3 to 5 years old
- Rear bike seats - for babies to 5 year old
- Trailers - for babies to around 6 years old
- Cargo bikes - for babies to teens
Bike seats or a trailer are the least expensive options, especially if you’ve already got a bike.
There are also options to pull a slightly older child behind your bike, using a tagalong or followme tandem.
Plan your route to school
It’s very important to plan your route to school carefully, by choosing a safe route depending on your children’s ability, or your own, if you are carrying them on your bike.
The best way to do this is to walk and cycle all the different roads between your home and school. This way, you might find some quieter roads that are safer than a busy, main road.
If you’re currently driving your kids to school, you will potentially have to explore paths that are not accessible to cars, like shared use paths along bridleways, through parks or canal towpaths.
Make sure you test the route with your child on a weekend or holiday, so there’s no rush to get to school on time. You can time how long it takes and adjust your morning routine accordingly.
If you are astonished by the lack of safe routes to your school, or if there’s a dangerous crossing along the way, don’t hesitate to contact your local councillors.
Carrying school bags by bike
With nursery and school come bookbags, sports kits, musical instruments, lunch bags, and all the other things that they need to take to school. Have you thought about how to carry everything?
If your route is not too hilly and your children cycle themselves, they can probably carry their own rucksack.
Panniers (bags that you clip onto the rear rack of your bike) are an amazing solution for both adult and kids bikes. You can also get double ones that are buckets that you can fill with all the bags and other things that you need to carry such as water bottles and raincoats.
Trailers usually offer some storage space. Bike seats obviously don’t come with any storage space and you might struggle to fit a rucksack in between you and your child. Putting panniers under a rear bike seat is also a challenge, if possible at all.
A front basket might be a good option if you’re using bike seats.
Plan for wet and cold weather
Smaller children get colder quicker, especially if they are exposed to the elements in a bike seat or on a cargo bike.
There are plenty of options out there to keep them warm though.
Get the bikes ready
You are nearly ready to go out for a trial school run! Are all the bikes in working order?
What about the trailer or seats, are they installed and are you comfortable using them? Here's some help on how to get started with cycling while carrying your child on your bike.
What else do you need to think about?
There are other things to think about such as where will you store the bikes or trailer? Do you want to leave them at nursery or school. Is this possible and do you need bike locks?
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Other articles you might be interested in:
- How to start cycling with a small child in a bike seat, cargo bike or trailer
- Getting ready to teach your child to ride a bike
- What's the best age to teach a child to ride a bike?
- 2 vs 3 wheeled cargo bikes; which is best for carrying kids?
- Kids cycling to school shouldn't be rocket science
- How to get more children cycling safely to your school
- How to clean a kids bike