Whether you're going to the local park or library, or planning a family outing, there are very few places you can’t go by bike. Plan your journeys around quieter roads and cycle paths, and cycling will add a sense of adventure to journeys usually done on foot or by car.
When cycling with children it's best to avoid very busy roads or complicated junctions, even if this means making a slightly longer journey. For local trips, it's usually possible to choose a route that uses quieter roads or cycle paths for much of the way.
Young children on trikes or scoot-along bikes will enjoy cycling up and down the pavements outside their house. See our free range play section for ideas and advice.
Whilst the road network is available to cyclists, there are different types of routes that are preferable for family cycling:
National Cycle Network
With over 14,000 miles of routes throughout the UK, the National Cycle Network passes through the centre of every major town in the UK, and 75% of people live within a couple of miles of it. A third of the routes are traffic-free with paths along disused railways, canal towpaths and forest tracks, whilst the remainder follows quiet roads and traffic-calmed streets. You can spot National Cycle Network routes by the blue cycle signs that have a red number.
These can be used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. By law, those on two wheels should give way to other users. Remember the surfaces can be variable and not always suitable for all bikes.
Shared use paths
These are free of motor traffic and designated for use by walkers, cyclists and sometimes horse riders. They generally have good surfaces. Some shared used paths form part of the National Cycle Network.
Planning a family bike ride
- Don't go too far: it's better that everyone enjoys themselves on a short ride and comes home eager to plan the next trip.
- Check the route beforehand: make sure you don't get lost and plan some options for shortcuts. Avoid very hilly routes, busy roads and difficult junctions.
- Let the slowest cyclist set the pace: this may be a child or an adult who hasn't cycled for a while.
- Make it interesting: children can get bored so plan plenty of refreshment breaks - little and often is better than one long break half-way. For younger kids, have a few games, like I-spy, up your sleeve to play during the ride, and stop at a playground or park, especially one with a café or ice-cream van!
- Take a friend: it's more of an adventure if your child has a friend to cycle with - though make sure that they're at roughly the same level.
- Check your bikes the day before: see our Basic bike maintenance (pdf) activity sheet.
- Keep children warm: when a young child is on the back of a bike, they won’t be generating heat like the person doing all the pedalling! Even on a fine day, take extra clothes and waterproofs – just in case.
- Take snacks and drinks: it’s important to keep their energy and spirit levels up. See our Cycle ride checklist (pdf) for more information.
- For safety tips on cycling as a group visit the Safe cycling page.