Skip to Main Content Go to Sitemap
Improving cycling safety for children and youth
4 minute read

Improving cycling safety for children and youth


Drs. Daniel Rosenfield and Suzanne Beno co-author a position statement from the Canadian Paediatric Society on the importance of creating safe cycling environments.

Cycling is a widely popular activity among children and youth as a fun, healthy and social pastime. Despite its popularity, cycling also carries a risk of serious injuries and fatalities, predominantly from collisions with cars. Despite decreases in injury rates since the early 2000s, cycling injuries remain high. In 2020 alone, 513 children were seriously injured while cycling in Canada.

Improving cycling safety requires a holistic approach that can encourage more children and youth to cycle while preventing serious and traumatic injuries. To increase awareness about recommendations to improve cycling safety, the Canadian Paediatric Society has released a new position statement – co-authored by The Hospital for Sick Children’s (SickKids) Dr. Daniel Rosenfield, Emergency Physician, and Dr. Suzanne Beno, Medical Co-Director of the Trauma Program and Emergency Physician.

“Physical activity from cycling offers numerous benefits including improved cardiovascular health, reduced risks of chronic diseases, and mental health advantages. People who start cycling as children often stay active throughout their adult lives, which lowers their risks of developing diseases as they age. Cycling and walking not only enhances physical fitness but also contributes to better attention and alertness among students.”

Dr. Daniel Rosenfield

To encourage cycling, and therefore maximize its benefits, it is important to promote safe cycling practices. Historically, messaging about cycling safety has focused on actions that individuals can take to remain safe such as wearing a helmet, wearing high-visibility clothing, and following the rules of the road. However, there is also a need to address how the environments we live in can impact cycling safety and cycling rates in children and youth.

Changes to our environments that can make cycling safer include building protected, separated bike lanes, implementing traffic calming measures such as speed bumps, and having neighbourhoods with mixed-use zoning (having schools, houses, parks, and shops all within a short distance). Research has shown that communities with safe areas for cycling have a higher number of cyclists, and a decreased rate of collisions involving young cyclists. These changes can also create safer areas for children and families to walk, which further encourages greater physical activity and can improve mental health outcomes. 

“Creating environments that prioritize safety is essential to promoting and preserving cycling rates in children and youth,” adds Beno. “This involves not only building safer cycling paths but also promoting policies that protect young cyclists, to ensure their well-being as they navigate their neighbourhoods on their bikes.”

A young child riding a bike in a bike lane.

The Canadian Paediatric Society supports safe, active, and equitable cycling for children and youth through the following recommendations:

Install more protected bike lanes to separate cyclists from motorized traffic.

Use more speed and red-light cameras in high traffic areas near schools, busy neighbourhoods and recreational spaces.

Implement traffic calming measures where children and youth live, play and travel.

Increase helmet use in children and youth through education, legislation and training. This should include mandatory helmet legislation in all provinces, for all ages.

Target efforts to increase cycling, road safety and helmet use in rural and remote areas of Canada.

Back to Top