Pedestrian and cycle training

Effective pedestrian and cyclist training can be labour intensive and take many hours to deliver. However, it is also extremely worthwhile, and the most effective way to teach safe walking and cycling skills to children.

Training should aim to build on children’s existing knowledge and develop their skills through discussion and practice. Training should be reinforced by parents effectively supervising and communicating with their children outside of school time too. This is particularly important for under-8s, who should only walk and cycle with adult supervision. You should also be able to involve parents and carers in the training as supervisors with the appropriate training and guidance.

It’s also important to back up practical training with classroom learning, using discussion, diagrams and models. Use our teaching guide for inspiration.

And finally, practical training should never be seen as the solution to dangerous roads. If your roads are too dangerous for children to practise their walking or cycling skills on or near, then you need to campaign for a safer road environment.

Safety first

  • To organise safe training, you should first find out if it is offered by your local council. Your local council may run established, evaluated training courses on walking safely or cycling safely. They will also be able to advise on whether or not you have a safe enough road environment on which to carry out your training.
  • All young children must hold an adult's hand and be given personal tuition in small groups. Advice on the number of supervisors you need to be safe for different age groups is given below. It is also best practice to ensure that at least two adult supervisors are present together at any one time, so that no one adult is left alone to supervise children.
  • With reasonable warning, parents may be able to help, but you must ensure they have appropriate guidance and training.
  • It can be useful to practise some road safety skills in the playground first, either using lines on the playground to denote kerbs, or marking out a road with crossings in chalk, for children to practise on.

Roadside pedestrian training for pre-schoolers

For this age group, it is safest to teach the children basic safety language and safety skills using role-play and other activities on your premises, rather than taking children out and teaching at the roadside. To teach children on your premises, you can draw out a road map on your playground and use ride-on toys and other props.

Your council might offer road safety training for parents of young children, and can also offer advice on educating young children.

Many early years educators do take children out on foot, for example, to visit a local park. You should only ever take children off your premises on foot if you have at least one supervisor for every two children so every child has a hand to hold. Very young children who are walking should wear reins as well as holding hands with an adult. It’s also crucial to assess the safety of the route you will take and ensure it has safe pavements and crossings on quiet roads.

You should conduct a safey audit to help you assess routes you use, although you should also consult your local authority if you have any doubts about the safety of your routes.

If you do take children out on foot, use it as an opportunity to teach and reinforce simple safety rules like: always hold hand with an adult; always stay on pavements away from traffic; stop when an adult says stop.

Roadside pedestrian training for 5-6 year olds

At this age children can be encouraged to start to make choices according to what’s safe and what’s dangerous (such as choosing a safe place to cross), but still under close supervision while holding hands with a responsible adult. With this age group, when running training you should have at least one supervisor for every two children, so every child has a hand to hold.

Contact your local authority road safety officer to find out if they can run a training course for you, with the assistance of teachers and volunteer parents.

During roadside training, children in this age bracket can:

  • Practise holding hands and walking safely on the pavement away from the kerb;
  • Practise stopping well away from the kerb, when a pavement ends (for example at a side junction);
  • Practise looking and listening for traffic. What things stop you seeing traffic? For example, a bend, a tree, parked cars, the hood of your coat. Where might traffic come from? For example, both directions, and out of drives and side turnings;
  • Practise crossing the road at the safest places, for example at a pelican crossing or a zebra crossing. Explain why these are safer;
  • Visit a park or playground and discuss why it is safe to have fun there. For example, there is no traffic and there is a fence around it.

You should conduct a safey audit to help you assess if a road near your school, and the access route to it, is safe for child pedestrian training, although you should also consult your local authority.

Roadside pedestrian training for 7-11 year olds

Children in this age bracket are usually ready to practice the Green Cross Code, having already learnt the Code and other basic safety rules in the classroom. For this age group, you need at least one trained adult supervisor for every six children, with no less than two supervisors present at any one time. The training should take into account that children in this age group may be starting to walk independently, and may start to experience peer pressure to act dangerously, particularly when they move up to secondary school. Training for this age group should therefore have an emphasis on making safe choices despite pressures to do otherwise.

Contact your local authority road safety officer to find out if they can run a training course for you, with the assistance of teachers and volunteer parents.

The training should:
Always take place on a quiet road, ideally with a crossing and lollipop person, and in small groups with plenty of trained supervisors.

Use self-instruction, where children recite safety rules before enacting them, e.g. stop near the edge of the kerb, look left, look right, etc.

Include discussion on the safest places to cross (e.g. on pelican crossings), and the most dangerous places where you shouldn’t cross (e.g. between parked cars, at busy junctions, or in front of a bus).

Include discussion on safety features on roads, such as speed limit signs, zig-zag road markings near school gates, railings and road humps. Why are they there and what do they mean? Who are they trying to protect?

Include discussion on why you shouldn’t trust traffic. Some drivers take risks like speeding, so it’s impossible to judge how fast traffic is and how long it will take to reach you. Never take chances and only cross when nothing’s coming.

Practical cyclist training for children aged eight or older

You may or may not want to investigate on-road cycle training, depending on the hazards on roads in your community. Some communities roads are, in many people’s view including in Brake’s view, just too dangerous to encourage children to cycle on them, and not designed with heavy traffic flows and child cyclists in mind.

However, the advice below will be of use to you if you have quiet roads with good separation of traffic and cyclists, for example through well-designed, separate cycle paths.

In 2007, the Government launched Bikeability, a new training programme being rolled out across England which replaces the old ‘cycling proficiency’, and which can be taken by both children and adults. To get their Bikeability award, pupils are instructed on how to ride their bikes to the Government-approved National Standard for Cycle Training. Bikeability is delivered by accredited instructors, usually employed by local authorities. It involves three levels of training and assessment:

  • Level 1 takes place off-road (e.g. on a playground) and involves a 1-2 hour session with no more than 15 pupils per instructor. It is suitable for pupils aged 8 and upwards. Download the course outline.
  • Level 2 takes place on quiet roads and aims to enable pupils to cycle safely to school or local amenities using quiet local roads. It consists of five sessions, with at least two instructors for a group of no more than 12 pupils. The first session should last two hours and include a cycle check and assessment of Level 1 skills in the playground. The next four one-hour sessions take place at local road junctions. Level two can only be undertaken by pupils who have completed level one and is not recommended for pupils under the age of 10. Download the course outline here
  • Level 3 takes places on busier roads and aims to equip pupils with the skills to be able to cycle on busy roads using complex junctions. It can only be undertaken by pupils who have completed level 2 and is not recommended for children under the age of 14. Download the course outline.

For more information go to www.bikeability.org.uk. To find out if Bikeability is offered in your area, contact your local road safety officer.

Bikeability is an England-wide scheme, but schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can contact their local road safety officer to find out if similar National Standard cycle training is offered locally, or use these links for information on cycle training in Scotland and Wales.

If you are offering cycling training and your roads are appropriate for child cyclists, then you may want to encourage cycling to school as part of your School Travel Plan. Some local authorities have a dedicated Bike It officer to help schools promote cycling. Even if you choose not to encourage cycling to and from school and in your community because you, parents or your local authority know the risks are too great, it may still be a good idea to offer some level of cycle training - children may still choose to cycle around their homes, on off-road cycle paths, or on their holidays, and many children will have a bike.