Put cycling on the school curriculum, urges Chris Boardman

Making cycle training compulsory for all school children would help to solve Britain’s ‘obesity ticking timebomb’ said British Cycling’s Chris Boardman.

Figures from the Health Survey for England have shown that obesity among young people is at its highest ever level. One in three children under 15 is overweight or obese. Chris Boardman said only half of schools now offer Bikeability cycle training for children.

Boardman was speaking at the Modeshift conference in Birmingham. Modeshift is an organisation aiming to increase levels of active travel, getting kids out of cars.

British Cycling has formed a partnership with Modeshift, the aim of which is to increase action at a local level, supporting communities to make positive changes to adopting active travel choices, and helping to ensure that local action steers the national active travel debate.

Boardman is British Cycling’s policy advisor. He said:

“For the first time there is now a danger that the next generation’s lifespan will be shorter than ours. Obesity in children is a ticking timebomb across Britain and until we start prioritising cycling as a form of transport and building exercise into young people’s daily lives this problem will only get worse.

“Cycling is a vital life skill that all children should have and is something that children carry with them throughout their adult lives. Bikeability training shouldn’t just be the preserve of children whose schools or local authorities happen to promote cycling – it should be for everyone.

“We’ve taught thousands of young people how to ride bikes but there are still millions of children who are missing out on cycling. Our partnership with Modeshift to encourage positive action at local level will strive to turn this situation around. Positive action at a local level, however small, can have a powerful ripple effect if those actions are replicated widely.”

Ross Butcher, Chair of Modeshift, said:

“As a professional body, supporting sustainable travel, Modeshift are delighted that British Cycling has become our latest partner. They will perfectly complement our existing services and provide our members with a wider range of information to promote and encourage cycling in their regions.”

Record number of schools sign up for The Big Pedal

Sustrans has reported record numbers of schools signing up to take part in the Big Pedal, the UK’s biggest inter-school cycling competition that starts on March 3rd.

The Big Pedal is run by the Sustrans and funded by Bike Hub, the industry levy fund, and aims to get kids more active by cycling and scooting the school run. For ten days schools all across the country compete against each other to make the most number of journeys.

As schools head back to the classroom after the half term break, 1,525 schools have registered and Sustrans are hoping that over a million school journeys will be made by schools taking part.

Sign-ups have rapidly overtaken last year’s grand total of 1,280 and numbers are expected to rise even further with plenty of time for more schools to join in before the competition starts, said a statement from Sustrans.

Sustrans CEO Malcolm Shepherd, said:

“To have so many schools sign up already is just fantastic, it shows that schools and parents alike recognise the benefits of incorporating physical exercise into the school run. “

“Hopefully this event will make a big difference to the way that people make the school run in the future.”

By signing up to the Big Pedal schools receive tailored lesson plans, posters, maps, and ideas on how to encourage everyone in the school to get involved.


Bikeability-trained kids cycle more, finds study

School children who have undertaken Bikeability cycle training use their bicycles more frequently than untrained children of the same age. That’s the conclusion of a new study, commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council. Based on a survey of 224 children in four Cambridge primary schools, the study shows the difference cycle training can make.

Bikeability training leads to an uplift of 12.6 percent in the amount of children who cycle to school. Training also leads to an 11 percent increase in the amount of cycling children do with their families away from school.

Almost one million children have been Bikeability trained since the national scheme was launched in 2006.

The new study was produced by Outspoken Cycle Training, which delivers Bikeability for Cambridgeshire County Council. This year Outspoken has trained 3874 children in years 5 and 6 in 163 of the county’s schools. Bikeability-trained children are less likely to ride on pavements, finds the study and more likely to be confident cycling on the road.

Michael Frearson, head of quality assurance at Outspoken, said: “It is remarkable that even in Cambridge, where cycling levels are already very high, that Bikeability-trained children are more likely to cycle frequently and confidently on the road than untrained children.”

Paul Robison, director of the Bikeability Support Team, responsible for the national roll out of cycle training, said “Most children want to ride their bikes but often their parents are understandably reluctant to let them, even though they know that cycling is good for health. Bikeability is designed to give children the skills and confidence to ride well and to give their parents reassurance.”

In England, Bikeability is funded by the Department for Transport and Transport for London and is offered free to about 50 percent of primary school children, mostly in urban and suburban settings. Most training occurs during school time in years 5 and 6.

Bike Hub partners with Department for Transport for National Schools Award Scheme

Bike Hub, the levy fund owned by the British bicycle industry, is to work with the Department for Transport to encourage more cycling – and walking – to school. This was revealed last week by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The National Schools Award Scheme will generate a new national momentum for cycling and walking to school and is supported from the very top of Government. The scheme will bring together a number of national organisations which already have wide experience of working with schools in cycle training, walking projects, and in programmes to encourage behaviour change in travelling to school. The aim will be to capitalise on, and enhance, existing schemes, such as the “Big Pedal” and Cycling Scotland’s “Cycling Friendly Schools”, as well as Walk to School Week from Living Streets.

Phillip Darnton, executive director of the Bicycle Association, said:

“We are very pleased to be working with the DfT to develop the scheme; as yet we have not settled any of the details. We are planning to work with TfL, Cycling Scotland, Living Streets and, of course, with Sustrans who already run the Big Pedal with funding from Bike Hub. We are also engaging with the Youth Sports Trust, the Association of Bikeability Schemes and other organisations such as the CTC to design a scheme which will appeal to as many schools as possible up and down the country.”

Running since 2003, the Bike Hub levy is voluntary, paid by the majority of UK bike shops and suppliers. About £400,000 is raised each year with contributions supporting cycling participation projects across the UK, especially youth projects. Sustrans’ Bike It project, seed-funded by Bike Hub in 2004, now has over 70 full-time officers working in over 700 schools each year. Bike Hub also created a free cycle satnav smartphone app to help people find and follow the best routes for bikes.

1 million miles cycled by kids in Bike Hub sponsored Big Pedal

927 primary and 49 secondary schools took part in this year’s promotion, which is organised by Sustrans. Kids completed 847,725 journeys to and from school by bike, or on foot, clocking up a combined 1,075,047 miles.

Funded by the Bike Hub levy, this year’s event took place between February 28th and March 20th. An estimated £358,000 in unnecessary fuel costs were saved by opting for two wheels as opposed to four, estimated Sustrans.

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans chief executive said:

“It’s a tragedy that so many of our children are denied opportunities to be active, creating serious health problems which worsen as they get older. Cycling and walking are key ingredients for tackling childhood inactivity and obesity, but sadly too many children and their parents don’t feel safe on our roads.

“Local authorities and central government must help improve the health of our children by making walking and cycling the safest, easiest and most enjoyable ways to travel.”

Research shows that children who are physically active are less likely to suffer from a range of diseases as they get older, including coronary heart disease and stroke, many forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes and mental ill-health.

Nearly half of all UK children want to be able to get to school by bike but only four per cent actually do so, says Sustrans.