Cycling has so many great benefits- it improves health, improves coordination, gets children outdoors, creates bonds and is lots of fun!
Cycling has undergone a resurgence in recent years as more bike paths get developed and more people ride rather than spend time sitting in traffic. Whether you ride to work or ride for pleasure, cycling is a great way to exercise. It is great for the whole family.
Since 1990 it has been law in Victoria that every bike rider must wear a helmet. A rider must not carry a passenger on a bicycle unless the passenger is also wearing an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the rider’s head.
A helmet should bear the Standards Australia mark, be the right size and be fitted and positioned on the head correctly.
Your child’s first experience of cycling might be sitting in a bicycle seat at the back or front of your bike while you ride. Keep in mind that these seats are only for children over 12 months of age who by that age have the muscle control required to hold their head up on their own.
Choose a seat with moulded leg supports to protect the child’s feet from spokes and with head and neck support, feet straps and spoke shields. Make sure it has a harness, fitted securely each time you put your child in the seat. Do short rides only, especially in hot weather, and make sure your child wears sunscreen and drinks plenty of water.
As your child gets older, tricycles are next. It is helpful to a child’s development that this stage not be skipped over in preference for a very small two wheeled bike. By using a tricycle or other riding toy with pedals, a child gets to practice coordinating their feet without having to worry about balance and stability. Just mastering how to move the tricycle without bumping into other things or people will be quite challenging. As your child’s skills develop take them to some open space to gain confidence with stopping, starting, pedalling and turning.
Developmentally, a child does not have the muscle tone, balance, stability, bilateral coordination, motor planning and body awareness to independently ride a two wheeled bike until they are about six or seven years old. For children with motor delays, this may be later.
Riding can be encouraged by offering children varied places to ride. You could start with an easy ride around the block (do more as children get older) or be more adventurous and do part of a rail trail ride.
There are available maps of bike riding areas and paths throughout Victoria which are very helpful when you want to ride with young children.
Families on bikes- Melbourne
Melbourne has many great and safe places to take your children out on their bikes:
Rail Trails: www.railtrails.org.au/trail-descriptions/victoria/melbourne-metropolitan
Bikes and paths: http://www.bikepaths.com.au/
Some great places to ride with your children:
Warburton Bike Rail Trail: https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Lists/Parks-Facilities/Lilydale-to-Warburton-Rail-Trail
Darebin Bicycle User Group: http://darebinbug.org.au/drupal/
Williamstown bike path: http://www.bikepaths.com.au/map/show/3
Murray to Mountains Rail Trail: http://www.victoriashighcountry.com.au/murray-to-mountains-rail-trail/
Find out more:
www.vicroads.vic.gov.au (Search: bikes)
www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au (Search: Child safety- bikes)
www.bv.com.au (Search: Life after birth)