Taxis taking children to school not a fitting legacy of London 2012, says father of 5-year-old girl

The father of a five-year-old girl at a primary school in Surrey has criticised a decision to ban children from cycling to school at two of its three sites on the grounds that it is too dangerous.

The decision, taken after a parent-governor meeting last Thursday, coincides with spending cuts forcing North Downs Primary School to move children between its three locations, located in the villages of Betchworth, Brockham and Leigh, which all lie between Dorking and Reigate, reports the Dorking Advertiser.

According to the newspaper, the school’s head teacher, Angela Ewing, has stipulated that from the start of the new academic year in September, the sites at Betchworth and Leigh will be “driving only.”

James Harvey, who lives in Brockham and rides with his five-year-old daughter to school in Betchworth each day, said he would not have chosen the school had he known that she and the rest of her class would be moved to the Leigh site.

"We wouldn't have chosen the Betchworth school if we knew this was going to happen,” he said. “There'd be no way. It's just too dangerous cycling to Leigh, they would be at risk."

He added that his daughter may have to travel to school in Leigh by taxi, although the school has said it will meet the cost for Year One children.

Surrey County Council has been keen to promote its commitment to ensuring a legacy from the county hosting much of the route of the road races and time trials in last year's Olympics, with this summer featuring the inaugural RideLondon-Surrey event and the return of the Tour of Britain.

It is also actively encouraging youngsters to get involved in cycling, it seems that has not filtered down to individual schools in this case.

Mr Harvey said: "It would be a national scandal if a school situated within view of the 2012 Box Hill Olympic Cycling Race introduced a policy that forces pupils into cars."

He is now talking to the school regarding having walking and cycling included on its curriculum.

North Downs Primary School is reported to be cutting one teaching post, with the number of children at Betchworth falling from 44 to 30, while there will be an increase from 43 to 60 in pupil numbers at Leigh.

Any children starting at the school from this September will also have been moved around all three of its sites by the time they reach their eight birthday, says the Dorking Advertiser, creating another potential headache for parents.

Betchworth resident Paul Potter said that plans to move the site where his three grandchildren attend school would entail an hour-long journey.

"I don't agree that it's going to be any better for the children and putting a five-year-old in a taxi is not a good idea," he explained.

"If Surrey County Council is offering the lifts for Year One pupils, surely they can keep funding the teachers?"

National cyclists’ organisation CTC published a guide last year aimed at helping parents help overcome resistance to their children riding to schools as a result of anti-cycling policies.

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans also encourages educational establishments to participate in its Safe Routes to School programme.


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.