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Bikeability Scotland: Report reveals cycle training postcode lottery for Scottish school children

Training available to children in three in four primary schools in some areas but fewer than one in 10 elsewhere

A report published by Cycling Scotland has highlighted wide discrepancies across the country in the provision of Bikeability training to schoolchildren, available in three in four primary schools in some areas but a handful in others.

The 2013 National Assessment of Local Authority Cycling Policy follows similar reports published in 2005 and 2008 and aims “to identify the extent to which cycling is included, prioritised and promoted in council policy.”

It was published to coincide with Cycling Scotland's annual conference last November.

Included in the summary page for each of the country’s 32 local authorities are statistics showing the percentages of children who cycle to school, as well as the number of primary schools where Bikeability training is provided at level 2.

The data relate to 2012/13 and therefore won’t cover schools that have signed up to provide Bikeability training during the current year. A full list, together with the percentages of pupils who ride to both primary and secondary schools, is shown at the end of this article.

While Aberdeenshire, Angus and South Ayrshire all provide the training in around three in four of their primary schools, there are a number of local authority areas where the proportion is less than one in ten.

Those are West Dunbartonshire, East Dunbartonshire, Stirling, North Lanarkshire and Dundee. No primary schools in Eilean Siar, which covers the Outer Hebrides, offer the training.

Bikeability Scotland was launched in 2011 by former world champion and Hour record holder, Graeme Obree, with the programme seen as a key part of the Scottish Government’s aim for 10 per cent of journeys to be undertaken by bicycle from 2020 and beyond.

With a drop-off in levels of cycling to school among secondary school students, providing training to younger children is seen as one way of giving them the confidence to carry on cycling as they grow older, a fundamental element of increasing levels of cycling in the future.

But that 10 per cent goal is one that some campaigners believe may already be out of reach, including Pedal on Parliament, which last week launched its third annual ride to campaign for better provision for cyclists.

The group’s manifesto says: “Much is made of developing training for cyclists in the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland yet Bikeability is not fully funded, and Cycling Scotland is dependent on volunteers to carry out vital training in schools.

Commenting on the figures, James McLoughlin of the road safety charity Brake, told The Scotsman: “A major barrier to many children cycling to school is parents’ fear from fast traffic.

“As part of the GO 20 campaign, Brake calls for local authorities to implement 20mph speed limits to protect kids on foot or bike and encourage greater uptake.”

Ian Maxwell of Lothian cycling campaign Spokes said: “While the overall level of Bikeability take up is disappointing, there is plenty of hope for the future. Some local authorities have made significant progress.”

According to the Parent’s Guide to Bikeability Scotland:

Level 2 is designed for primary 6/7 children [ages 10 and 11] and is the core level of the programme. The focus is on making short journeys on quieter roads, with an emphasis on signaling and observation.

The main objective of Level 2 is to allow trainees to develop the skills which will allow them to travel safely on our roads, including:

Starting and finishing an on-road journey

Understanding how and when to signal their intentions to other road users

Understand where to ride on the roads they are using

Demonstrate good observation at all times.

This training is intended for delivery on a quiet on-road venue - usually a risk assessed T-junction.

Research shows that on-road training offers a more realistic, enjoyable and effective leaning experience for all pupils.

The Cycling Scotland report, which covers cycling by both adults and children across the country, benchmarks councils’ performance in cycling and ranks them on a five point scale in several areas, and also provides short case studies of best practice.

In the field of education, examples given include mountain biking being added to the PE curriculum at two schools in East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde’s work in delivering Bikeability, and the programme being delivered by both the Sports Development and Active Schools teams in Renfrewshire, which the council says “has helped to create a more robust and sustainable support model.

                       % cycling     % cycling      % of primary
                       to primary   to secondary    schools with 
                         schools      schools        Bikeability
Aberdeenshire              4.6          2.4              76
Angus                      3.3          1.3             73.6
South Ayrshire             4.1           -              73.2
East Renfrewshire          2.9          0.2             69.6
Orkney                     3.4          3.4              65
Midlothian                 5.9           1              63.3
Moray                      6.8          2.9             57.8
Edinburgh                  5.2          1.7             51.7
Fife                       3.8          0.5             48.2
Dumfries & Galloway        4.9          1.5             46.6
Shetland                   3.8          0.5             45.2
Scottish Borders           3.9          0.7             42.9
Perth & Kinross            5.7          1.8             39.7
National                  4.1          1.1             37.6
Clackmannanshire           5.4          0.9             36.8
Inverclyde                 0.7           -               35
Aberdeen                   3.6          1.2             31.3
Renfrewshire               2.4          0.4             22.4
South Lanarkshire          2.3          0.3             16.8
Highland                   8.3          5.3             15.9
West Lothian               4.8          0.5             15.2
Glasgow                    2.6           -               15
East Lothian               9.4           2              11.4
Falkirk                     4           0.7              10
West Dunbartonshire        1.6          0.7              8.8
East Dunbartonshire         4           0.5              5.4
Stirling                   8.5          2.8               5
North Lanarkshire           3           0.2              4.9
Dundee                     1.7          0.9              2.9
Eilean Siar                4.9           -                0
Argyll & Bute              3.3           -                -
East Ayrshire              3.7          0.4               -
North Ayrshire             5            0.6               -

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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MKultra | 10 years ago

Going by the amount of people all over the cycling forums who want to offer bikeablity training I would say that it has become a bit of a middle class affectation and the market is now over populated. Much like in the noughties when graduates wanted to retrain as plumbers. Most local authorities who have a dedicated cycling team will have training officers who are employed by them either as full time members of the team with other duties or on a pro-rata basis. They are not going to put them self out of a job by handing it over to a volunteer who in reality is trying to build social capital so they can go angling for further paid consultation work. It might sound harsh but that's the way the cookie crumbles these days. It's also much easier for schools to go through the council as vetting and risk assessment is already in place.

andrew abbess | 10 years ago


Has your local Bikeability Scotland coordinator not been able to get you an introduction into local schools?

jill1morton | 10 years ago

I'm a competent cyclist and qualified to deliver bikeability (and beyond). I've offered to volunteer with various local authorities and made direct contact with schools. From approx 25 emails to schools I got 3 responses, 2 to tell me no thanks!

Something in the system isnt working because I know I'm not alone  17

Sara_H | 10 years ago

My son has done Bikeability Level 2, I also did it myself recently. My view is that it in no way prepares children to ride safely in traffic and at difficult junctions.
My son has a lot more road bike sense than most his age as he's been riding with me for some time, but I wouldn't be happy to let him ride independently yet.
The real answer is Dutch style infrastructure - then we'll be in with a chance of parents letting there children ride independently.

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