Riding as a Family

This article was published in 2019, in Magazine 144.

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It’s your first trip out as a family: the bikes are ready, you’ve planned your route, you’ve got a picnic or identified the cafĂ©, but how should you move along the road as a group? Here are a few tips from Bikeability for cycling with children.

Riding as a group

  • It is a good idea to position the children who are most proficient at cycling (e.g. trained to Bikeability Level 2) at the front. If there are two adults in the group, then it’s best to have one adult in front and one at the back. If there is only one adult, make a considered decision about whether it is safe enough to have more than two children in the group.
  • You may ride side by side with your children, when you should position yourself on their right. (The Highway Code advises you not to ride more than two abreast.)
  • When you are on the road, ride as a unit and keep the group together as one piece of traffic. Your aim will be to negotiate junctions together, tackling the priority system as one – rather than dashing across individually.


  • On your route you will need to cycle past side roads, pass parked vehicles and overtake slower traffic. To pass correctly, make sure you look behind and ahead, understand who has the right of way and move out when there is time and space to do so.
  • As you approach ensure that there are no cars close behind you and move into the primary position, i.e., the middle of the lane. This is the default road position for cycling on busy roads and complex junctions. It gives you the greatest control of your road space. It offers most options for avoiding hazards and makes you more visible to other road users.
  • Move into primary position before your children so that drivers are prevented from passing on the approach to the junction.
  • You can use the same process when approaching traffic islands, ‘pinch points’ or when riding on narrow streets where there is not enough room for a cyclist and a driver to safely pass each other.


Whatever the style of junction, there are four things to do:

  • Look: behind and ahead, consider rights of way and consider time and space.
  • Communicate: by signalling your intentions to other road users.
  • Position: when time and space permit, approach the junction in primary position, hold primary position through to the junction exit.
  • Priority: give way where you need to, if crossing a lane or entering a new lane where other road users have right of way.

Planning checklist

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  • Do you know where you are going and how long it will take? Have you made sure all the family or group can cope with the distance and terrain?
  • Do you need any food or drink?
  • Has everyone has got suitable clothing, and are you prepared for changes in the weather?
  • Is everyone clear on the order you will be cycling in and how you will tackle turnings, junctions or obstacles?
  • Have you checked everyone’s shoelaces are tied and that there is nothing hanging down which could get caught in the chain or brakes?
  • Have you done an equipment check?
  • If wearing helmets, ensure that they fit correctly around the circumference of the head and the strap is secure below the chin, with enough room to fit two fingers between the strap and the chin.
  • Check the bikes over first using the M check from Sustrans: tinyurl.com/sustransMcheck

Your position on the road

  • Ride confidently and position yourself where you are more visible to other road users.
  • Ride behind your children, and slightly to the right, where you can see your children and ride at their pace. This will create more space between them and passing traffic.
  • Ensure that you are close enough to hear each other and encourage your children to check behind regularly to confirm you are still close

Rosie Humphrey