New book from BikeBiz executive editor Carlton Reid loaded with pretty pictures but packs a punch on letting kids roam free

‘Family Cycling’ aims to get kids on bikes

Snow Books of London has published ‘Family Cycling’ by Carlton Reid, the fourth cycling book in an expanding series. Other titles in the Snow Books cycling series include ‘City Cycling’ by Richard Ballantine; Bike Buyer’s Guide by VeloVision’s Peter Eland; and ‘Bicycle Design’ by Mike Burrows.

Chapters from ‘Family Cycling’ can be previewed in page-flippy mode on, including the intro and a chapter on teaching a child to ride a bike.

The intro makes an impassioned plea for parents to ‘let go of the apron strings’ and let their children cycle:

"Stranger danger, fear of traffic and ‘I’m driving there anyway, on the way to work’ are the usual reasons for taking kids to school in the car. (Sheer distance can be another, crossing cities to get to ‘good’ schools is normal nowadays, although ‘proximity’ to schools is rising up the Government’s hierarchy of what makes education tick). Wanting to protect your child is an obvious imperative but giving them independence, letting them fly, allowing them to make their own mistakes, judge risks by themselves, including road risks, is better that shuttling them to and from school in a fun-free, reality-distorting, air-conditioned capsule."

The book also says "a bike is wings":

"Cycling is a balancing act, a mode of transport, a tool for exploratory play, and a form of exercise, all in the same eco-friendly package. Pumping those pedals is good for the heart, yet it’s not a treadmill. For kids, learning to ride a bike is an important rite of passage. A bike is independent transport for a child, passenger no longer. A bike is wings.

"Cycling extends children’s geographical mind-maps. Trips that would be boring to walk, or too far, are simple to cycle. Self-propelled children know their local area far, far better than children carted everywhere by car. Self-propelled children are also more in tune with the seasons.

"My three kids cycle to school in all weathers. At their insistence. Sometimes they get wet. When it snows, their hands get cold, their faces ruddy. To drive to school on a beautiful summer morning would be a sacrilege. To not be able to stop by the horse-chestnut tree on an autumnal ride back from school, going bonkers over conkers, would be unthinkable. In a car, kids miss out on so much. Children ferried places in a reality-distorting bubble look glum. Kids in cars are making no decisions for themselves. Studies have shown that children who are driven to school arrive lethargic and do less physical activity throughout the rest of the day than kids who arrived at school under their own steam."

While the book is a polemic on giving kids more freedom, it’s also pictorially inspirational: it’s packed with bright, smiley, cheery photos of the ‘Reidlets’, who clearly love cycling.

The book costs £11.99 and is available from Snow Books. Trade orders can be placed via A&B, Littlehampton Book Services or a range of international book distributors.

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