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


  • Should my child wear reflective and/or high visibility clothing?

    Particularly in the hours of low light (dawn, dusk or night) cyclists should ensure that they can be seen by other road users.

  • Do I need to fit lights and reflectors on my child's bike?

    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.

  • Should my child use flashing lights or a fixed beam?

    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.

  • How can I ensure that my child has a safe route to cycle to school?

    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 site below

  • Is my child ready to cycle on the road?

    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.

  • Should my child attend cycle training / cycling proficiency / bikeability courses?

    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 follow this link.

  • How do I fit a child's helmet correctly?

    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.

  • At what age should children start to wear a helmet?

    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. 

  • How often should I change a child's helmet?

    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. 

  • What protection does a helmet offer?

    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. 

  • Do children need to wear a helmet when they are cycling off-road for example in the park or the garden as well as on the road?

    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.

  • What should I do if a child falls off his/her bike and the helmet gets dented or scraped?

    You must replace it. 

  • What is the difference between a helmet that costs £7.50 and one that costs £60? Is it worth paying so much more for a helmet?

    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. 

  • What safety standard should I look for on a helmet? Are some standards better than others?

    Helmets sold in the UK must have the CE BSEN1078 standard. All the safety standards are rigorous.  

  • How do I measure a child's head for a cycle helmet?

    Wrap a tape measure around the child's head just above the eyebrows and read the measurement in centimetres. ​

  • What if I can’t find a helmet that fits my child?

    There are occasions when it can be difficult to find the right sized helmet for your child but do check with your nearest helmet stockist and they may be able to help you. Alternative contact The Cycle-Smart Foundation and we may be able to help.

  • Where can I buy a helmet?

    Most bicycle retailers sell helmets as do some of the larger toy stores and supermarkets. ​

  • What evidence is there to suggest cycle helmets are effective?

    There is large amount of research that shows that cycle helmets are an effective means of preventing head injury. Please see the links on this website that detail research from across the world​.

  • Does wearing a cycle helmet increase the risk of rotational injury?

    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. ​