Cycle Smart Foundation


Saving lives by safer cycling

Cycle-Smart is committed to saving young people’s lives by promoting all aspects of safer cycling and, in particular, the use of cycle helmets.

Cycle-Smart is an award winning child cyclist's safety charity. The Trust was founded in 1998 by a paediatric nurse who through her work saw the devastation that head injury can cause not only to the child but to the whole family. Since its conception the charity has grown in its drive and commitment to be an advocate for the child and young person. It also provides a community service by highlighting the need of safer cycling practices that incorporate the distinctive needs of children and young people.

Don't leave it to chance

The charity is a national resource working with parents, teachers, police, road safety officers, Government departments, healthcare professionals and children by promoting and providing educational programmes in schools on the need for helmet use and safer cycling practice throughout the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

Helmets have been shown to be effective in reducing potential injury to a young cyclist's head/brain in the event of a fall or impact with an object. Brain injury is devastating and we believe it is not worth leaving it to chance.

Particularly in the hours of low light (dawn, dusk or night) cyclists should ensure that they can be seen by other road users.
It is illegal to cycle after dark without lights.
The exact regulations are laid out by the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR)
The main points of the legislation are as follows:
  • Front Light – 1 white light that must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3. The light can be either a fixed beam or flashing beam (many modern lights allow the cyclist to switch between the 2 modes)
  • Back Light – 1 red light that must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or BS3648. The light can be either a fixed beam or flashing beam (many modern lights allow the cyclist to switch between the 2 modes)
  • Rear Reflector – 1 red reflector is required conforming to BS6102/2
  • Pedal Reflectors – 4 amber reflectors are required conforming to BS6102/2
  • The vast majority of bikes are sold with these reflectors already installed.
It is not a legal requirement for you to install lights on your child’s bike because the law only states that they need to be installed (and switched on) during the hours of darkness. Most modern lights can easily be clipped on and off the bike. If your child does not have lights but finds themselves out during the hours of darkness they should walk their bicycle on the pavement – you are not legally required to use lights if you are walking your bike.
If you are using a cycle trailer for younger children, then it too should be fitted with a red rear light (specifications as above) as well as a triangular reflector with an ECE mark III or IIIA.
Both are fine as far as the law is concerned but the general recommendation is that flashing lights be used in areas where there is adequate street lighting for the cyclist to be able to see their route. In this sense the lights are acting to alert other road users of your presence as opposed to lighting your way. A fixed beam should be used in areas without adequate street lighting where the cyclist needs to light their path as well as alert other road users to their presence.
It’s important that as well as providing the correct equipment (helmet, reflective clothing, etc.) that parents take time to consider the route that their children take to school. Where possible children should use bike lanes but where bike lanes aren’t available or they don’t cover the entire journey then parents should consider the following:
  • Use streets with minimal traffic
  • Avoid busy or complex junctions where possible
  • Choose crossing points that are bicycle friendly
  • Ensure that children aren’t breaking basic traffic laws e.g. riding the wrong way down one way streets (this may mean that they need to find a different route back from school)
  • As a parent, cycle the route yourself and use your experience to assess what other risks there might be and how they might be mitigated
There are many organisations that are campaigning for space for cycling and an improvement to the kind of infrastructure that would make cycling safer in the UK. For information both at a local and national level please see the CTC website.
Use your judgement as to how well your child can handle their bike – do they still fall off a lot? Do they often lose balance or over steer, etc.? If the answer is yes, then it might be too soon for them to go out on busier stretches of road.
When learning how to assess the road and the risks that might be involved remember that you are the best teacher for your child during those first few years. Early on ensure that you cycle with your child to keep them safe but also to help them identify the potential risks that they may face while on a bike. Teach your child to use their senses of sight and hearing to look and listen for other vehicles. As with any learning situation the support you give to a child should be positive and it should also ensure that your child can learn to make their own decisions albeit with your supervision.
Remember that riding on the pavement is not permitted and is not necessarily safer than the road. There are still obstacles and pedestrians on the pavement as well as cars backing out of driveways.
Learning to cycle is a life skill. The Cycle-Smart Foundation supports calls from British Cycling to further the reach of cycle training programmes and we as a charity would like to see cycle training enshrined as part of the national curriculum in UK schools in order to both encourage cycling amongst young people while also ensuring they have the relevant skills to cycle safely.
Bikeability (the new name for cycling proficiency) is one of the most common cycle training schemes across the country. It has 3 levels specifically designed for children of various ages and abilities, teaching skills from basic handling of the bike right the way through to bike maintenance. For more information about bikeability and where you can access it please visit
Ensure the helmet is the correct size. It should fit snugly and be comfortable to wear. When the child shakes or nods their head the helmet should remain secure. The helmet rim should sit on the forehead, just above the eyebrows. The helmet should NOT be tilted back leaving the forehead exposed or tipped so far forward it covers the eyes and obstructs the child's ability to see. The straps must not be twisted and there should be no slack in them. Most helmet straps form a 'V' shape just under the ear lobe. Ensure the helmet does not affect the child's ability to hear. Listening is an important part of cycling safety.
Always check the manufacturers' instructions on fitting advice.
As soon as they start riding a bike or sitting in a bike seat. This is not usually before 9 months when a child has solid head control.
You must replace a helmet if it is damaged in anyway as the structure of the helmet will be compromised. Check a child's helmet on a regular basis and replace it as the child grows.
Helmets have been proven to absorb some of the energy force that causes head/brain injury. They add another layer of protection in addition to the skull.
Yes! Accidents can happen anywhere at any time. Every time a child gets on a bike he/she should wear a helmet so it becomes the norm.
The most important thing is that a child likes the helmet and wants to wear it. The helmet that costs £7.50 has to meet the same safety standards as the one that costs £60. However, there is no point buying a helmet your child doesn't like or won't wear.
Helmets sold in the UK must have the CE BSEN1078 standard. All the safety standards are rigorous.
Wrap a tape measure around the child's head just above the eyebrows and read the measurement in centimetres.
No. In a recent report: The Potential for Cycle Helmets to Prevent Injury - A Review of Evidence - carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory and released in December 2009, no evidence was found to support the theory that helmets can increase the risk of rotational head injury.
Yes! Accidents can occur when you least expect them, therefore keeping up good practice of wearing a helmet is recommended by the Cycle-Smart Foundation.
Lead by example, ensure you always wear a helmet when cycling. We would say that their brain health is the most important, and therefore promote/encourage helmet wearing for EVERY bike ride. Imagine the same scenario with your child refusing to wear a seatbelt, you wouldn’t travel until they’ve buckled up!