When is a kid ready to bike to school alone (or with friends)?

by Jennifer Wolosin on August 9, 2018

With summer camps wrapping up and the start of school looming around the corner, many parents are starting to think about how their kids will get to school. Parents for Safe Routes just finished our Back to School Newsletter, and in it we have a readiness checklist to help parents evaluate when a child is ready to bike alone. Here it is:

Many experts agree that kids start to develop the cognitive maturity to bike without adult supervision around age 10. While some Menlo Park schools provide bike education (and we’re working to get more to do so), it is each family’s responsibility to prepare their own child, starting at a very young age, to navigate the streets safely. Only once a child has demonstrated a mastery of safety skills and reached a certain maturity level are they ready to commute to school alone.

Readiness Checklist

Does your child…?
– Follow rules —Ride with traffic, stop bike at stop signs, look L-R-L and use proper hand signals.
– Stay aware — No texting or talking on cell phones while riding or listening to music with headphones.
– Ride predictably — No swerving in and out of cars. Kids riding in groups should ride single file.
– Have the right gear —Wear a helmet (bright ones are best), have air in tires and check brakes. Also wear reflective items and have lights for the front and back of bikes.
– Have a safety plan — Know what to do in case of a collision or other incident while riding.
– Resist peer pressure — Stick to what is taught (safety rules, identified route, proper behavior).

Have you…?
– Practiced riding with your child, pointing out potential hazards and coaching them on riding skills.
– Biked with your child along school commute, both before school starts and for a while once it has. Road conditions can change drastically once school is back in session, and it’s important for parents to get a good sense of the traffic.
– Evaluated the readiness of your child. Try following far behind your child to see how they do when not with you.

Need help? Organizations such as Wheel Kids, Y Bikes and Avid 4 Adventure offer this type of education.

Photo courtesy of Parents for Safe Routes; author Jen Wolosin is founder of Parents for Safe Routes

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