Biking To School: What Parents Should Watch Out For

When school starts again after the summer vacations, many parents ask themselves whether they can let their children cycle to school on their own with a clear conscience. In this guide, we’ll tell you how you can best prepare for this situation and what speaks for and against cycling to school.

At What Age Is A Child Allowed To Ride A Bicycle To School?

Even though some (elementary) school principals prohibit bicycling to school, this decision is legally the sole responsibility of the parents. Walking to school alone promotes independence and strengthens your child’s self-confidence. Nevertheless, traffic educators advise that children should not ride their bikes alone until they are about 10 years old. Elementary school children in particular have yet to learn how best to behave in real traffic. They are often not yet able to cope with several demands at the same time and cannot correctly assess dangerous situations. The Pressedienst-fahrrad therefore recommends that parents train their children to cycle to school at an early stage and accompany them until they can master the route safely on their own.

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Bicycle Driving License For Primary School Pupils Not Overestimate

In elementary schools, the bicycle driving test is offered to students in the third or fourth grade. The children not only learn the most important traffic rules for participating in road traffic, but must also demonstrate in the practical part that they can apply what they have learned. Although the Verkehrswacht advises against riding a bicycle in traffic before passing the test, the bicycle driving license is not a prerequisite for riding to school. Parents should also not overestimate the bike test. The same standard situations are often practiced during the training, which is often very short; the final test itself takes place in a traffic-calmed area (for example, in the schoolyard or in a hall). This usually has very little to do with everyday life on the road. Therefore, practice your own way to school regularly together with your child and point out dangerous places before he or she sets off on his or her own.

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These Are The Rules Children Must Master

Children are the weakest participants in road traffic and depend on the guidance and example of adults. For young road users, of course, the same principles and traffic signs for cyclists on the road apply as for adults.

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Before you let your child ride off on his or her own, you should also ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can my child correctly judge the speeds and distances of vehicles?
  • Can my child recognize dangerous situations independently and know how to avoid them?
  • Is my child always attentive in traffic and not distracted by other environmental stimuli?
  • Does my child know that daring and speeding have no place in road traffic?

On The Sidewalk To School: Where Is My Child Allowed To Drive At All?

“Isn’t it safer if my child just drives the way to school on the sidewalk?”

René Filippek from the German General Bicycle Club (ADFC) clarifies: “According to Section 2 (5) of the Road Traffic Regulations, children up to the age of eight are excluded from the roadway and the bike path. They must use the right or left sidewalk. Only if there is no sidewalk may they use the roadway.” This is how long children must dismount to cross the street and push their bike across the street. Until they reach the age of 10, elementary school students are then allowed to choose whether to use the roadway or the sidewalk. The ADFC expert adds, “Children over the age of ten are not allowed to ride their bikes on sidewalks – just like adults.”

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Tip: Since the end of 2016, parents have been allowed to accompany their children under the age of 8 on their bikes on the sidewalk. When crossing the street, however, both must then dismount and push.

How To Make Your Child’s Bike Roadworthy

Before you send your child out into traffic on a bicycle, be sure to check whether the bicycle is actually roadworthy as defined by the Highway Code. In addition, you should pay attention to the following features when buying a child’s bike:

  • Does the bike have smooth-running disc or hand brakes?
  • Are thumb or twist shifters fitted?
  • Does the bike have halogen headlights or LED lights and protected routed light cables?
  • Is there a powerful and smooth-running dynamo or battery-powered light system that illuminates even when stationary?
  • Are light strips attached to the tires?
  • Does the bicycle have secure screw connections?

Tip: Find out the rules of thumb for the tire size of a child’s bike before you buy.

By the way: The owner of the vehicle and the person riding the bicycle are responsible for the road safety of the bicycle. Guido Meitler from the children’s bike manufacturer Puky explains, “Accordingly, parents are responsible for their children’s bikes as part of their educational mission.”

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Safe On TheRoad: Who Is Liable If Something Does Happen

Unfortunately, most road accidents still happen on the way to school. But what actually happens if your child is the cause of the accident? The statutory liability insurance is incomplete in this respect: it only applies if the child is on the direct route from the front door to school or back. But what happens if the child takes a detour on the way to school and stops off at a friend’s house, for example? Parents should definitely take such cases into account and provide additional coverage – for example, in the form of private liability insurance. This covers personal injury, property damage and financial loss anywhere in the world and at any time.

Good to know: Children under the age of 10 are not liable at all in road traffic if their parents have fulfilled their duty of supervision. This is deemed to have been fulfilled if you have accompanied your child once on the way to school and have pointed out possible dangers during this time.

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