Ages 9 to 12
At what age is it safe for children to begin to bicycle outside quiet neighborhood streets and ride on the street instead of the sidewalk?
Experts differ slightly on this issue. While there is no "magic age" that determines when it is safe to ride on arterial roads, children in the 9–12 year-old age group likely have developed the cognitive skills that allow them to bicycle on the road.
Younger kids (under the age of 9 or 10) may not be able to judge motor vehicle speeds well enough to determine when it is safe to pull out into a lane, change lanes, or turn in front of a motor vehicle.
Children who are first learning to bicycle, no matter how old they are, should cycle with an adult until they attain the confidence and skills to ride on their own.
Good route selection should always be emphasized. Using bike lanes or paths, trails, and streets with less traffic is recommended. Even when cycling on the street or block where you live, the 9–12 year old cyclist must exercise the same degree of caution and defensive cycling that they do on larger roads.
Tools and Skills
When teaching 9–12 year-old cyclists, focus both what they need to know and also what they want to know about cycling. Spark their interest by asking what they would like to know about cycling. Teach them to seek out cycling knowledge by searching the Web, visiting the library, asking at a bike shop or community recreation center about cycling clubs and rides in their area.
Emphasize that it's important to ride with traffic-in fact, it's illegal to ride against it.
Teach the 9–12 year-old cyclist to hone advanced riding skills, such as selecting gears, learning how to ride in groups, how to follow another cyclist at a safe distance. Visit the League of American Bicyclists web site for more information.
Teach 9–12's about lane positioning: how to look behind you before changing your position or lane, how to deal with right turn lanes when cycling straight, what to do when the lane is narrow and cars are parked in your way, and how to alert others in traffic to your intended moves.
Teach this age group more about their bicycle and its accessories. Emphasize the importance of getting to know your bike. Teach how glasses and gloves can help you; introduce them to the option of special bicycle clothing; and explain how to maintain good hygiene even after a tough ride.
Events teaching more advanced handling skills and concepts.
- Bicycle Adventures is a hands-on series available through the National 4-H Curriculum.
- The Texas SafeCyclist Program is a nationally recognized and comprehensive bicycle safety education course for Texas' 4th and 5th grade elementary school P.E. teachers and their students.
- Exploratorium's Science of Cycling is a large site that offers audio and video clips, interactive online content, and loads of images. Click here to discover the Science of Cycling.
Choosing the Right Bike and Helmet
For even more comprehensive helmet coverage, visit our helmets page.
Yes, Safety Can Be Fun!
- Resources, Resources, Resources: Download tip sheets, a bike safety quiz, listings of training programs, catchy brochures, and other fun and handy bicycling resources.