Posted by

Children and Teens Growing Up Bikewise

Although the primary focus of this post is kids biking Monterey County—and all photos were taken here—the post also includes tips relevant for those who bike anywhere.

FAQ: In California, are bicycle helmets required by CA law, or at specific properties or specific activities and events—for youth or adults? Click here.

2 trail-a-bike family 1 Nov 2015 in MRY cropped
From teens, like this girl biking in East Salinas

IMG_3017 (1024x1010)

to tots—like the little one who’d biked to a HER Helmet Thursdays spot in Pacific Grove, Peppers Mexicali CafeIMG_0028
 many children and teens especially love being outdoors when it means riding a bicycle.
The aim of this post is to support children and teens in biking, and safely.

First, some important advisories:

Most people agree that children up to approximately age 13 (some say 9-13) cannot really make the necessary decisions about vehicle speed and distance that allow them to bike safely in the street.
Sidewalk riding may sometimes be a good alternative. However, there are important things to know about sidewalk riding! Hear Mari’s 90-second audio and read about “Bicycling on sidewalks: misconceptions and advisories.” Addressed there are the legality and safety of sidewalk riding, plus crosswalk guidelines too.
Seaside - young biker with moms in crosswalkBe sure to also visit the Tips for Bicycling Monterey County section on “Bicycle Riding Skills, Bike Safety, and CA Bicycle Laws–for Children, Teens, and Adults.” That section includes such things as “When is a child ready?” along with equipment for use with babies and younger children, tips for teens, and more.

Refer to our high-visibility section too. People who are low on the road (not only children on shorter bicycles, but also adults on recumbents) are very easy to overlook. Although high visibility is controversial and is definitely not the answer to most bicycling safety concerns, high-visibility flags and such may help make riders more noticeable to drivers of motor vehicles.

Is it worth the risks to bike?
As Natividad Medical Center employees recognize, biking can be a very health-building part of a child or teen’s life. There are so many benefits to biking, for people of all ages, including grandparents too!
This post can help you determine for yourself when, where, and how to support your child or teen in making biking part of their life.
Unfortunately, even well-intentioned people sometimes share dangerous, misleading information about bicycling. Here’s one example. Questions? Contact me.screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-12-47-40-pm

Children Bicycling Carmel

The cheeriest of “Good Mornings” was called out by two happy children out biking Carmel early on this morning. These little ones were biking under the watchful eyes of their mother.

Mom chose a neighborhood and time of day with very few to no cars. And she was hyper vigilant in accompanying her children!

Mom is teaching her son and daughter that—even though they are lots of fun!—bicycles aren’t toys, they are a means of transportation.

Bicycle Helmet Fit Guides are included on this site, in English and Spanish. Refer to: Bicycle Riding Skills, Bike Safety, and CA Bicycle Laws—for Children, Teens, and Adults, and for Spanish, Información en español sobre las bicicletas: A compilation of bicycling resources in Spanish

CA law – DMV VC Section 21212 states that minors are required to wear helmets when biking (and also when skateboarding, skating, or on a nonmotorized scooter).

Although her children aren’t really at an age for street riding yet, this mother found a time of day and location where she could begin teaching them the earliest lessons about navigating streets safely. She chose a morning ride, after the hour most commuting drivers had already headed to work.

The little ones under her wing were paying very close attention to all of Mom’s instructions.

They made a full stop at every driveway and intersection. No going past it until Mom said, “Okay to cross.”

It was essential that Mom determine whether they were judging the traffic conditions accurately, and whether they could now continue safely past that driveway or intersection.

Where are some off-street places for kids to practice riding skills?

Class I paths are great! Several are shown and discussed in this post. What is a Class I path?

“Class 1 Bikeway (Bike Path):  Provides a completely separated right-of-way for the exclusive use of bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Be aware that Class I paths sometimes intersect with streets. That means that if you have children of an age appropriate to bike a bit ahead of you—but who are not yet teens and able to safely cross a street on their own—teach them to stop and wait for you at each of these crossings. Here’s one such example, along the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail where this popular coastal trail parallels Del Monte Avenue and intersects Casa Verde in the City of Monterey.Sign - bike path with cyclist

Okay, on to examples of Class I paths. Here are two in the Carmel vicinity…

Class I path between Carmel Valley Road and Rio Road

Put your bikes on an MST bus, a personal vehicle rack, or another transportation helper (e.g., a hotel shuttle), then bike-and-ride to this quarter-mile Class I path.

Are you shopping, dining,  or doing other errands in the Barnyard, Carmel Rancho, or Crossroads shopping centers? Give the kids a break! Let’s move! This short path has a good picnic spot alongside, as well as a place to lock up your bikes while you walk in the vicinity. There are HER Helmet Thursdays spots nearby too.

Mouth of Carmel Vly Class I path, with hillls beyondDSC00138

South Bank Trail, Carmel Valley

Have you been to the Class I bike path in Carmel Valley? Fencing on both sides make it a great place to safely “herd” even the youngest children as they bike this path. Visit the Big Sur Land Trust website to learn how this 1.5 mile South Bank Trail along the Carmel River came to be.South Bank Trail Project - rack - easy for kidsSouth Bank Trail Project bike rack and sign

Below, another Class I bikeway, in the City of Monterey—and stretching far beyond.

Carmel residents the Trambley family also like to make use of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail network’s popular 18-mile stretch referred to as the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. Those 18 miles, which run from Castroville to Pacific Grove, are almost all Class I bike / multi-use trail.

Below, mom and daughter, Rosaleen and Bridget, are in the City of Monterey’s section. Mom reports, “My husband and I belong to a local triathlon club, and our little one likes to accompany me at training sessions. Thanks to the rec trail, I am able to do a cycling workout with her and not worry about traffic.”

Photo provided courtesy of the Trambley family. 

Why bike with children and teens?

It’s a joy to see children and teens learning such an important life skill–and one benefiting both their personal health and the health of their home planet. There are so many benefits to biking!

Over 30 studies offer statistics about the benefits of bicycling for children, including impact on sleep, obesity, cardio health, academic performance, and back pain. “Bike to School: Year-round Monterey County school bike activity” includes links to reports on the academic benefits of bicycling. You may also want to consider the Emotional and Community Health Benefits for Youth Cyclists identified by some teenagers in Vancouver, British Columbia:  independence, better parent-child relationships, freedom of choice, confidence, and healthier communities.

These are among the reasons that Bicycling Monterey voluntarily does what we do, since May 2009. If you find the Bicycling Monterey website and projects of value, please

make a contribution

in any amount. Thank you.
It’s also why…
  • The Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) started a new bicycle safety education pilot program “Cycle SAFE.”  It is a two-step program designed to empower members of the community to become better at bicycling and give back by learning to teach others how to ride safely and legally. Step 1 of the program, a basic road skills training, is open to ages 14 and up. Step 2, a licensed cycling instructor (LCI) seminar, is open to ages 18 and up. Learn details here.1st people trained IN Monterey County 001
  • It’s why TAMC contracted with Ecology Action of Santa Cruz to help get bike skills classes going for fifth graders in some local schools. Learn more. BikeSmart2
  • It’s why TAMC is offering free bike and skateboard racks, bike lockers, and bike maintenance stations in 2015, 2016, and 2017.KammannSchoolSalinasMay2014 from SCEEF
  • It’s why the Carmel City Council unanimously supported the County’s plan to put bike lanes on Rio Road.
  • It’s why there is a new Pathway to Health Initiative in the Salinas Valley, which will bring bicycle facility markings in Greenfield, multi-use paths and bicycle lanes in King City, and new bike lanes in Salinas. Click here for details.Greenfield girl helping little ones learn bike helmet fit 2012
  • It’s why the City of Monterey Recreation Department offers bike maintenance classes to teach ages 8 through adults.
  • And it’s why the City of Monterey applied for, and received, grants that will allow them to do bike education and safety outreach, such as a helmet giveaway and bike rodeo, along with making infrastructure improvements. Learn more. 3 teens on fairground rd after school
  • One way City of Monterey is using that grant money: to support Family Biking Monterey County, a grassroots effort launched October 2016 by Families of Color Monterey County (FoCMC), established July 2016. FoCMC reported on their Facebook wall on 3/4/17 that City of Monterey provided “bike safety gear, books to share, and has been donating helmets to FoCMC since we started our Balance Bike Camps in November of 2016!”  [Update, April 7, 2018: announced “FoCMC is ending.”  On May 21 they announced they are relocating to Nevada –] 
Those are just a few examples of all that’s happening in Monterey County, all because of the increased recognition of the multiple benefits of bicycling! Chic-style, preteen in Mtry1-1-12

The environmental impact of cars inspires many people to use bicycling as a transportation choice. See Tips for Bicycling Monterey County section 20. Bicycling and Ecotourism / Good Earthkeeping Right at Home for related info.

Bike activities and events for children and teens

Check Bicycling Monterey’s master calendar for appropriate activities.
Master Calendar for Bicycling Monterey CountyMany activities you may think of as being for adults actually welcome families with kids of all ages, such as…

Monthly Twilight Rides at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.Donnell Family at Twilight Ride Mar 2012

And the world-renowned annual event at Laguna Seca, Sea Otter Classic, a Celebration of Cycling for all ages. In 2017 this event marks its 27th year, yet many people still think it’s just about racing. Not!

Trio of kids - end of day happy and tired - DSC00268

See Bicycling Monterey’s SOC tips, plus Children Celebrate Cycling and Mamas and Babies at Sea Otter Classic to get an idea. Then mark your calendars for the next SOC! Visit the Sea Otter Classic website to learn more. Upcoming confirmed dates are: April 20-23, 2017; April 19-22, 2018; April 11-14, 2019.

Toddler on front of Mom's Bike cropped - DSC00195Breastfeeding Mother at SOC -cropped - DSC00165Laguna Seca’s official address is Salinas. What else is happening in the City of Salinas?

Children and teens biking Salinas

Don’t miss these extraordinary dates for people who bike—or who  roll in a wheelchair or wagon, skateboard, rollerblade, walk, run, or otherwise want to enjoy car-free streets: Ciclovia Salinas! These are a great opportunity to bike with children, teens, and all ages on Alisal Street from Oldtown Salinas to East Salinas. This long stretch is temporarily set aside to be free of motor vehicles.


Burrito bike rides (usually twice a year) Boy at Burrito Ride 5-19-13 near 1st Pres Salinasand numerous other special events in Salinas are kid-friendly. Many people don’t realize that Salinas youth lead the way in many Monterey County bicycling firsts!SHS stand by JW 8-31-12 IMG_1528

And what about the rest of the year? Where can children practice bike skills in Salinas, the Monterey County seat (click for general bike Salinas tips)?

2 teen boys Alisal at Madeira

Class I path: “Lots of people don’t even know about the car-free  path behind Creekbridge shopping, adjacent to Monterey County Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But our parents do. They jog along besides us while we practice our two-wheeler skills!”

A family at Creekbridge

Naturally, Salinas city parks are one good option for kids. Click here for most Salinas neighborhood parks. Click here for some additional Salinas parks and related facilities. Among popular parks for bike skills practice is El Dorado Park, 1655 El Dorado, which is in North Salinas and close to Harden Parkway. There are bike lanes nearby.

Want some inspiration from Monterey County elementary school educators–and the children they bike with? These educators, who are well experienced at biking, are teaching children bike safety not just in the classroom and on the playground, but out in the community too! That’s right, hands-on-the-handlebars instruction to help children how to safely navigate their community by bike.  Click here for a story about Monterey Park Cycling, Salinas.

Below: Monterey Park Cycling – a South Salinas biking club

Gather round 2012-03-02_16-06-22_6 (2)

Photo courtesy of Ron Dillender, former principal of Monterey Park School. When Ron moved to a position as principal at Lincoln Elementary School, which is another a Salinas City Elementary School, he started a cycling club there too. As of the 2015-16 school year, Ron is in a new position with the SCES district, now serving  as a Principal on Special Assignment and Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Have questions about starting a cycling club at your school? Ron is a great resource; contact him at the SCES district office.

More about Class I paths

See the Where to Bike section of Tips for Bicycling Monterey County. There are many miles of Class I bikeways on the Monterey Peninsula, and some sections of the 18-mile coastal trail are shown below.

Doubly careful:  Teaching bike skills to his son using a trail-a-bike, and on a Class I path.

This dad has it all figured out:  “We can get miles of riding in ultra safely. No way Mom needs to worry!”

Susan Ragsdale-Cronin and daughters, Sydney, Tara and Dharma Maria

The Ragsdale-Cronins, sans father Bill on this day, are pictured above kicking back on the lawn alongside the Class I bike/multi-use path between Wharf I and the Coast Guard Pier in Monterey.  These kids are already quite experienced on the various types of bikeways.  That isn’t surprising, since they have a good role model:  Their mom, Susan, was a 2006 Transportation Excellence honoree of the Transportation Agency of Monterey County.

You’ll also see the Ragsdale-Cronins biking in their Del Rey Oaks neighborhood, to their San Carlos School in Monterey, and elsewhere. Read Susan’s story, “There’s nothing like riding a bike,” in the August 29, 2011 Monterey County Herald.Ragsdale-Cronins at MPC Mktg 006

Below, young friends of the Ragsdale-Cronins learn about the Monterey Bay via personal observation from the bike path.

Children of the Suarez Family

Another Monterey Peninsula mom you’ll see out biking with her children is Mindy Surratt.

Mindy Surratt and son - 12

See more photos and learn about Mindy and her kids’ bike commuting lifestyle in a Bicycling Monterey guest post by Susan Ragsdale-Cronin. Click here.

You’ll see Mindy’s husband, Tim Meehan, biking with—or to pick up—their children too!

Precious Cargo Carrier - Dad and Friend 004

To see a La Mesa Village mom out biking with her children, and to watch 20-second and 33-second videos on “Taking the Lane” and “Making a Left Turn,” click here.

Elsewhere on the Monterey Peninsula, kids are biking in Seaside
Bikes - RAIN - Boys & Girls Club Seaside - 2 - DSC00156too. Even on a rainy day, children had biked to the Boys and Girls Club in Seaside (pictured above).

North and South County

See children biking in CastrovilleCastroville Ready to Go - 5 Feb 2012 006and GreenfieldCesar Chavez Greenfield student fitted with helmet 2012—and get tips for those communities in those sections of this website.

For South County, as noted above, Pathway to Health Initiative in the Salinas Valley will bring bicycle facility markings in Greenfield and multi-use paths and bicycle lanes in King City (as well as new bike lanes in Salinas). Click here for details.

Many family budgets are often stretched

And most parents are looking for ways to save money! Biking can help, for many reasons.

Among those reasons are that if you go to any of the hundreds of HER Helmet Thursdays spots in Monterey County, males and females (children, teens, and adults) can get discounts on Thursdays. Where? In the following Monterey County cities and unincorporated communities/census-designated places. Click the linked names here for tips specific to those communities and their vicinity. Big Sur, Carmel and Carmel Valley, Castroville, Corral de Tierra, Gonzales, Greenfield, King City, Marina, Monterey, Moss Landing, Pacific Grove, Pajaro, Prunedale, Salinas, San Ardo, Sand City, Seaside, and Soledad. And for all the others, refer to the Quick Reference Guide on the Listings/FAQs page.

Among the HER Helmet Thursdays spots are such places as the Monterey Youth Museum (“MY Museum”).

MYMuseum bw2

And even if Mom and Dad aren’t biking but perhaps are walking alongside a little one on a bicycle, the child can still get a HER Helmet Thursdays discount because he or she biked there. (Sorry, Mom and Dad. You’ve gotta pedal to get a discount too.) Here’s the bike of a little pedaler who rode in 2016 to Peppers Mexicali Cafe, Pacific Grove. Peppers is a charter participant in this long-term project.


For more about children biking in Monterey County, see the Children and Teens section of this site, which includes “Bike to School: Year-round Monterey County school bike activity, for elementary, middle, and high school,”SHS stand by JW 8-31-12 IMG_1529Bicycle Culture and Youth,Annabelle helmet facingBiking by the Bay, Cargo Style–for Children Too,” Fam seats and trailer - taken off 1 April 2011 014Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day” (an annual event–backed up with year-round local opportunities),Aaron with new mt bike - jul aug 10 135 and much more!
There are over 500 posts and pages of original content on the Bicycling Monterey website. In that you’ll find thousands of photos of children, teens, and their parents, grandparents, or other loved ones biking in Monterey County. Explore! Contact Mari with your questions.

Dad and daughters Wharf Marketplace April 2015Bike to school with grandfatherHelmet - lil one and mom - pal bike fairFamily at wharf - trio - cropped taken off 1 April 2011 033Seaside kids - jpg

Bicycling resources in Spanish and other languages

Start with Language resources in Spanish and other tongues, plus Guess-Their-Country Game for an overview of resources on the Bicycling Monterey website.

Monterey County’s local bike shops include many Spanish speakers. See our list of local bilingual bike shop professionals.Sports-Ctr-Seaside-Air-for-lil-one CROPPED

In Spanish, and English, “What Every Parent Should Know,” “Fitting a Helmet,” “Bike Safety around Big Trucks and Buses,” K & dad S on Garden Rd bike lane - 036 (2)and other information helpful for teaching children and teens to bike safely can be accessed under the Resources/Los Recursos tab of this site:  “en espanol.” There you’ll also find Safe Routes to School inspiration and more. (There’s also Safe Routes info, in English, in “Bike to School.”)


Want to take children biking but live in a neighborhood without Safe Routes to School, or to anywhere?  Consider a bike-and-ride option to help you reach a Class I or other area suitable for young or inexperienced riders.Bike and ride MST Jazz Line downtown Monterey

Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor, bike-and-ride can make all the difference in getting more bike time into your life, and in a way that best suits the varying stamina levels and schedules of you and your loved ones.

Monterey County bicycling resources

Ever wish you could just try out a trail-a-bike for a little one? You can rent one locally; find such businesses in the bike rentals section.Trail-a-bike Warwick friends

Did you know there are Monterey County high schools with a cycling team, and a team for high schoolers whose school doesn’t have one? Yup! Salinas High 2 male teamers DSC_0410Learn about these and other countywide cycling resources in the 32-section Monterey County Bicycling Resources. You’ll find some additional bike classes linked there too.

Bikeways of Monterey County

The Where to Bike section mentioned above includes a link to the maps section of this website, where you’ll find the Monterey County bike map, CSUMB bike map, and–in Spanish and English–the City of Salinas bike map.Salinas bike map

It’s wonderful when you can teach kids to bike safely in their own neighborhoods, if conditions allow it.  Beyond that, Monterey County’s 18-mile stretch bike/multiuse path, part of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail System, along with other Class I paths in Monterey County, are a great starting ground for families helping children and teens become bikewise.

Didn’t know the trail went that far? Folks who attended the annual Intergenerational Ride for Bike Month rode a stretch of it that many people miss.Monterey Park girls at Intergenerational Ride 2014

Join these joyful little ones on the bikeways.

Happy trails to you….

A short version of this post, “Bicycling Children Growing Up Streetwise,” was first published June 6, 2011.
The post was extensively revised and updated on August 30, 2015. As usual, feel free to contact Mari with any questions.

This post was published on 30 August 2015. One or more changes last made to this post on 4 October 2022.

  1. marilynch says:

    Hi, Ellen. Thank you for your interest. Please contact Mari directly about photo permission requests. Thanks. ^el

  2. Ellen says:

    I am wondering if I could use one of your photos above for an article I am writing on child safety. I would of course credit your site. Thanks so much!


Leave a Reply