Sustrans teams up with Olympic champion Dani King to call on government to make cycling part of national curriculum

Sustainable transport charity says it's the only way to change kids' habits and pave way for a healthier life

by Simon_MacMichael   October 17, 2012  

Sustrans Going for Gold report 2012

Sustrans is calling on the government to make cycle training and maintenance part of the national curriculum in England to help combat childhood obesity, which it says cost the nation £760 million last year. The sustainable transport charity, with the backing of Olympic champion Dani King, says that a minimum standard of everyday cycling education and support should be introduced to schools in England by 2016.

In a report published today called Going for Gold, Sustrans urges the government to incorporate cycling within the national curriculum, including regular safety and maintenance training and ensuring that students are able to park their bike at their school.

According to Sustrans, the current one-off sessions offered are not effective in changing habits, with only 2 per cent of children cycling to school regularly.

The introduction of a new gold standard, it says, would mean that exercise would become part of their daily routine, potentially saving billions of pounds in healthcare costs in the long run and enable people to lead healthier lifestyles.

Three schools so far – two in Surrey and one in Kent – have so far reached gold standard, each having trebled the number of children cycling.

According to the Going for Gold report:

Our children are increasingly suffering from obesity and poor health caused by physical inactivity. Only one in forty 11-year-olds meets the target of an hour of physical exercise a day. One of the major reasons for this is the loss of independence and freedom to be out and about and active in childhood.

Changing this will directly benefit children and our economy:

• the NHS is expected to spend nearly £10 billion every year on obesity by 2050 when it is predicted that 70% of girls and 55% of boys will be overweight or obese
• physical activity is positively related to children’s academic performance
• with nearly a quarter of cars on urban roads at 8.40am taking children to school, getting children out of cars and onto two wheels will reduce congestion.
 
Health professionals are clear that regular exercise is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, and evidence shows that ensuring children can walk or cycle to school is a cost-effective way of beginning to tackle all of these issues. The success of our Olympic cyclists has inspired children, providing a window of opportunity, and young people want to cycle:

• nearly half of children say they want to cycle to school, yet only 2% do
• most children have access to a bicycle
• nearly half of boys and 36% of girls aged 11-12 ride a bike for fun at least weekly
• the average journey to primary school is 1.5 miles and for secondary school 3.5 miles – both well within cycling distance

Translating this into higher levels of physical activity is a real challenge, but the evidence from Sustrans’ work is that it is possible to achieve.

Sustrans calls on the Government to make a step-change in physical activity levels amongst children in England and significantly increase cycling to school by 2016 by:

• integrating cycling into the school curriculum
• investing to achieve a quarter of children cycling to school regularly today.

Malcolm Sheppard, chief executive of Sustrans, commented: “It’s a national tragedy that so few of our children are able to enjoy the benefits of daily exercise and the freedom of cycling to school.

“Competitive sport is great but it’s not for everyone – we need opportunities for our Olympic-inspired kids to be active every day.“

King, who won team pursuit gold in London this summer alongside Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott – the trio are also the reigning world champions – said: “I speak to so many kids who would love to cycle to school but they don’t have the right training to do so safely or the facilities at school for their bikes.

“We know kids who cycle to school are healthier, more confident and perform better in their lessons.

“If we want to see a real change in the number of kids riding to school, and the benefits that entails, we need a minimum level of cycling education and facilities in every school in the UK.”

 

10 user comments

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Well intentioned but only half the story. The problem is not lack of confident cyclists, it's poor driving. Call it road safety training, start with two wheels then give teens pre driver training with cycle awareness a core part of each course. That way we might create a generation of new drivers more ready to show some respect to their two wheeled brethren, surely the most effective way of reducing conflict and encouraging the less confident to saddle up. Might attract a few drivers, too.

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posted by iDavid [45 posts]
17th October 2012 - 17:35

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Oh Tags. Blame the drivers why don't you?

Let's all be honest. So basically we are going to get kiddies to mix and mingle with large pieces of heavy moving essential machines operated by all sorts of nondescripts because of some perceived right to take big risks without bad results? Great.

There are other ways of tackling obesity in kids without encouraging them to do something so risky where one's life is placed totally in the hands of complete strangers. Let's face it, that's cycling.

Road safety 'experts' are often folk who's CV doesn't cut the mustard.

posted by Sedgepeat [39 posts]
17th October 2012 - 20:15

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@Sedgepost Not blaming anybody. But it's a fact that fear of traffic is the greatest single deterrent to new cyclists. Yes you can segregate, but if all road users were trained to respect each other, we wouldn't need raised kerbs and blue paint. How to get that? Start early, that's all I'm saying. And BTW I frequently place my life in the hands of the BA captain in the front of the plane. I don't know him, but I know the risk and accept it.

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posted by iDavid [45 posts]
17th October 2012 - 20:42

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My 9 year old rides fixed indoor and outdoor track, he rides cyclocross league, he rides mountain bike and he road rides with me including the ascent of alpe dhuez earlier this year. We live in a town with only approx 25,000 people. Would i let him ride to and from his school only a mile away at the time of the school run? Not a chance. The roads are simply to dangerous. It's outside of school hours cycling opportunities that are required that can be promoted by the school. They have footy, rugby and athletics teams why not school cycling clubs promoting inter school events. Grass track racing or tt,s round a grass running track cost nothing to organise.

posted by kiterseve [9 posts]
17th October 2012 - 21:03

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kiterseve wrote:
My 9 year old rides fixed indoor and outdoor track, he rides cyclocross league, he rides mountain bike and he road rides with me including the ascent of alpe dhuez earlier this year. We live in a town with only approx 25,000 people. Would i let him ride to and from his school only a mile away at the time of the school run? Not a chance. The roads are simply to dangerous. It's outside of school hours cycling opportunities that are required that can be promoted by the school. They have footy, rugby and athletics teams why not school cycling clubs promoting inter school events. Grass track racing or tt,s round a grass running track cost nothing to organise.

Absolutely agree. My daughter loves riding to school but will only ride with myself or my wife. Not on her own. Riding away from roads on a school field or another area within the school would be great and lots more kids would feel safer being supervised in an area free of traffic.

nige

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posted by formereve [65 posts]
17th October 2012 - 23:30

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Make it happen. Look at the kids, teens, adults, the elderly in the Netherlands - generally in great shape - because almost everyone cycles. It's a part of the culture and needs to be encouraged and brought in from a young age.

David O'Brien

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posted by dob90210 [5 posts]
18th October 2012 - 1:14

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Agree, there is currently no chance I'd let my daughters ride the half mile to school on the roads. But the answer isn't to stop them doing it, the answer is to get the local council to make it safer for children to ride to school.

It's ridiculous that so many parents won't let their children cycle or even walk to school because of the dangers on our roads, so instead they jump in their car and drive the half mile to 2 miles instead. They just become part of the problem.

We have to campaign to make our streets safer for children to walk and cycle to school. We have to leave the car keys at home. If this means 20 mph, or taking space away from motor vehicles for pavements / cycle lanes then so be it.

It can be done, has been, and is being done in other countries. We just need the political and public will to do it.

posted by markyjl [8 posts]
18th October 2012 - 8:05

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it's a rare forum where everyone is in agreement which says it all really

posted by kiterseve [9 posts]
18th October 2012 - 9:31

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Face it, we are largely a country of morons goverened by Victorian age morons .. largely for the benefit of large corporations, food companies, drinks companies, TV, etc, etc .. certainly not for the people of this country.

Common sense doesnae come into it .... if it did, we wouldnt feed our kids sh1te, would make sure they got at least 2 hours a week schooled physical exercise as my generation did, we would encourage them to walk to school and back rather than ferrying them around in cars (further entrenching the belief that car is king), we would discourage the culture of sitting indoors playing computer games cos the "bogeyman's" outside... in short we would let them LIVE!!!

Elf n Safety, a culture of litigation, etc ... BOll0cks to most of it, let children be children, let people utilise their own inbuilt common sense.

The thinking, largely from the top is so backwards, so misdirected that it beggars belief. Physical Exercise whether it be walking, running, cycling, whatever it is ...leads to a healthier, happier population and everything should be done to encourage it ... Building more roads, filling our streets with more cars, etc IS NOT THE WAY TO GO!

Rant over ... Smile

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [298 posts]
18th October 2012 - 9:37

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Sedgepeat wrote:
Oh Tags. Blame the drivers why don't you?

Let's all be honest. So basically we are going to get kiddies to mix and mingle with large pieces of heavy moving essential machines operated by all sorts of nondescripts because of some perceived right to take big risks without bad results? Great.

There are other ways of tackling obesity in kids without encouraging them to do something so risky where one's life is placed totally in the hands of complete strangers. Let's face it, that's cycling.

Hmmm - Sedgepeat by name, sedge peat by nature?

On your first point I have some sympathy. Just as as it is nonsense to impose the obligation on the victim to be entirely responsible for self-protection, it isn't enough to rely on improving behaviour by those who cause the risk. The US aproach to homicide - give them open access to guns but execute them if they kill - appears less effective than the UK aproach of life prison sentences but restrict the supply of guns. Similarly, designing roads to reduce conflict and risk to cyclists and pedestrians will always be more effective than education or criminal sanctions.

But I really can't support the second comment. Sure, there are other ways of giving kids exercise but they are always less effective. Not all kids will play football or go swimming, for example, but a bicycle is a passport to personal freedom and mobility for children if their environment is safe enough. Cycling also provides an opportunity to exercise in time which would otherwise be taken up travelling in a less healthy way. Unlike football or other games-style activity, cycling to school or while playing with mates uses spare time more efficiently, especially important in a world where time pressures eg for homework and exams have got so heavy.

posted by Paul M [281 posts]
18th October 2012 - 16:46

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