Campaigners say city risks failing to meet cycling targets through missed opportunity

Edinburgh City Council is being called upon to introduce compulsory cycle training for pupils after it was revealed that only one in six primary school children in the city currently receive such lessons, giving rise to fears that Scotland’s capital will miss its target of getting cycling to account for15% of all journeys by 2020.

Campaigners are also urging Edinburgh City Council to appoint a “cycling champion” to help the city achieve its aims, according to a report in The Scotsman, which says that the decision over introducing cycle training at individual schools is left to head teachers, resulting in a piecemeal approach to the issue.

The newspaper said that figures regarding the present level of pupils benefiting from cycle training had been released following a request from Green councillor Alison Johnstone, who said that the current level of participation reflected a "missed opportunity".

Ms Johnstone told the Scotsman: "When I asked the question I was pretty astonished. Not only do we not have a target, but there seems to be far too much of a reliance on volunteers to deliver cycle training.

"Cycle training ticks all the boxes and we need to be taking it very seriously in terms of cutting down pollution and improving our children's health,” she added.

"Here we are in 2010 without a strategy in place, so it's high time this was viewed in a serious way.

"They need to throw real weight behind this if they're serious about achieving 15 per cent of journeys by bike by 2020.

"It's a missed opportunity on all sorts of levels and I don't see why it couldn't be made compulsory,” she concluded.

Councillor Andrew Burns, a keen cyclist who leads the Labour group on the council, which is jointly controlled by the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, said that the council should create "cycling champion" to help remedy the situation.

Mr Burns told the newspaper: "I do think it's a surprisingly low figure when you consider the targets that the local authority has got and has signed up to. A bigger effort needs to be made.

"There is a lack of overall co-ordination between the council departments on this,” he claimed.

"Cycling training for schools needs a champion within the current administration to make sure the figures are brought upwards because, at this rate, we are not going to meet our cycling targets,” he continued.

Mr Burns added: "The crux of the problem is that a lot of it is based on goodwill of parents, teachers and staff, and if that's not always possible then the cycle training isn't happening."

According to the council, all primary schools in the city are given the chance to offer cycle training to pupils, but the final decision as to whether to implement such a policy rests with individual head teachers, whose opinion may be swayed by factors such as the proximity of main roads or whether pupils have access to bicycles.

City education leader Marilyne MacLaren told the Scotsman: "We want to encourage the uptake of all sports within our schools as it is important for all children and young people to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.

"Since the scheme started in 2006-7, the council has improved the uptake of the scheme significantly. We provided cycling training to over 1,000 pupils last year,” she added.

"If a school wants cycling training then our Active Schools team will organise and support the delivery of it,” Ms MacLaren insisted.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.