Plenty of eyebrows may have been raised last week when Plymouth was named the most cycle-friendly city in Britain, but the Devon city has now become the latest place in the country to roll out Balanceability, an initiative designed to help children aged between two and a half and six years to quickly learn the fundamentals of cycling by using balance bikes.
Developed by Gloucestershire mother Maria Yates who had identified a need for a separate training programme to lead into the existing Bikeability courses on offer, Balanceability also ties in with the government’s Start Active, Stay Active initiative, and has the backing of former world and Olympic champion, Chris Boardman.
Cycling instructors Roy and Karen Wyle Smith of EliteVELO are now bringing the course to Plymouth with the help of national under-23 mountain bike champion Carla Haines. The course starts next Monday 11 June and will be held at the Woolwell Centre on Darklake Lane. Further information is available buy calling Karen Wyle Smith on 07930 830537 or online at www.elitevelo.com.
Commenting last year on Balanceability, Boardman, who also wore the Tour de France’s maillot jaune on three separate occasions during his career, said: "Balanceability is the fundamental starting point for children's cycling and an excellent opportunity to promote active lifestyles at the earliest possible age.
"I can see it also provides a natural lead into Bikeability for schools and I would encourage all schools to give children the opportunity to use balance bikes."
The programme’s founder, Maria Yates, “Learning to ride a bike is a right of passage for every child but sadly many children have real difficulty making the transition from stabilisers resulting in many 6 and 7 year olds being unable to ride.
“I developed Balanceability to help parents with this challenge and to get their kids riding a bicycle confidently and safely.
“Balance Bikes are an excellent way to teach young children how to ride a with confidence and this structured programme provides teachers, cycle trainers and children’s activity leaders an accredited, proven programme to follow.
“My mission is now to make Balanceability available across the whole of the UK to every child that would otherwise not have the opportunity to learn how to ride a bike and support parents that are finding this a challenge.”
The programme also has the support of Patricia Maude MBE, who lectures in physical education at Homerton College, University of Cambridge and is the author of the book Physical Children, Active Teaching.
“The Balanceability programme offers children a great opportunity to become competent cyclists at an early age through the development of balance and control,” she said.
“The programme is made up of progressive learning experiences, with fun ways to learn to cycle on balance bikes. This programme is a foundation for cyclists of the future, through which young children can practise and achieve the balance needed to ride a bicycle, but without the encumbrance of pedals.
“The recently published reports in July 2011 of both the Chief Medical Officers’ Report and the NHS ‘Physical Activity Guidelines for Children (Under 5 years), call for an increase in physical activity for most children.
“The Balanceability programme ably contributes to meeting the physical activity guidelines for healthy development as well as providing a success-orientated experience, helping to build up children’s confidence and sense of achievement.”
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.