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'Stark' increase in childhood obesity prompts Cycling UK to renew call to get more kids cycling

Just two per cent of British children cycle to school compared to 50 per cent in the Netherlands

Cycling UK says that getting more children cycling to school should be a public health priority after the Millennium Cohort Study highlighted a ‘stark’ increase in the proportion of children who are overweight or obese between the ages of seven and 11.

The BBC reports that the study of nearly 12,000 children found 25 per cent were overweight or obese at age seven, rising to 35 per cent at 11.

Children who cycle to school have measurably better concentration than those who don't – study

Cycling UK believes an obvious way to address this is by getting more children on their bikes.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Head of Campaigns, said: “Almost 50 per cent of children make their school journey by bike in the Netherlands – in the UK it’s just two per cent. It’s therefore no surprise that we see such a disparity in childhood obesity levels.

“Getting more young people cycling to school should be a public health priority. Primary schools can now use proceeds from the ‘Sugar Tax’ to encourage active journeys to school. They need to do this and government must consider extending this to secondary schools.”

Last month we reported on the Beacon School in Banstead where pupils were informed that they would need number plates on their bikes if they wished to cycle to school.

Headteacher Keith Batchelor explained that the system would, “allow us to target cycle training and safety awareness sessions to our students” and “to reward good and safe cycling by giving members of the community a way to give us feedback about how our students are using the roads locally.”

More recently, Sandringham School in St Albans said it would suspend children if they were caught riding to school on the pavement. It also said that no child would be allowed to cycle to school without a helmet, promising that regular checks would be carried out to enforce the rule.

A school travel plan had made reference to parents and residents parking on the road outside the school, blocking cycling lanes. Dollimore suggested that the new rules were created instead of an effort to make it easier and safer for children to cycle to school.

In March, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called for schools to be car-free zones in a bid to combat air pollution. Such measures are already in place at a number of schools in Hackney as part of the School Streets initiative.

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