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Chris Boardman: get kids on bikes to solve childhood obesity

Make cycle training compulsory in schools, says British Cycling policy czar

Making cycle training compulsory for all school children would help to solve Britain’s obesity "ticking timebomb", British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman says.

British Cycling cites figures from the Health Survey for England that show childhood  obesity at its highest ever level. One in three children under 15 is overweight or obese. Boardman said that it is no coincidence that only half of schools now offer cycle training for children after the cycling proficiency test was scrapped in 2007. 

Boardman said: “For the first time there is now a danger that the next generation’s lifespan will be shorter than ours. Obesity in children is a ticking timebomb across Britain and until we start prioritising cycling as a form of transport and building exercise into young people’s daily lives this problem will only get worse.

“Cycling is a vital life skill that all children should have and is something that children carry with them throughout their adult lives.  Bikeability training shouldn’t just be the preserve of children whose schools or local authorities happen to promote cycling - it should be for everyone.

"We’ve taught thousands of young people how to ride bikes but there are still millions of children who are missing out on cycling. Our partnership with Modeshift to encourage positive action at local level will strive to turn this situation around. Positive action at a local level, however small, can have a powerful ripple effect if those actions are replicated widely.”

Modeshift is a lottery-funded body that provides resources to local authorities to encourage schools to adopt active travel. Membership, and therefore acces to its resources, is only available to officers of local authorities. Boardman was speaking at the organisation's national conference.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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