The Government has announced that its Bikeability training programme will be significantly expanded so that every child in England will be offered access to it. Campaigners welcomed the news, but said that without safe places ride, the investment could not be maximised.
Cycling UK says it costs £18.33 per head for a pupil to reach Bikeability Level 2, which equips pupils with the skills to negotiate quiet single carriage roads and simple junctions.
Up until now, only 50 per cent of English primary schools have been able to access the training, but the Government says an additional 400,000 training places will now be offered on the scheme each year.
Cycling and Walking Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Cycling is a fun and enjoyable way for children to get to school, the shops or see their friends. It is also environmentally friendly and has a positive impact on their mental and physical health.
“Extending Bikeability training will inspire the next generation to take to the roads as confident and proficient cyclists and will play an important role in helping us meet our net-zero emission targets.”
Responding to the news, Chris Boardman, the Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “Giving all children the opportunity to learn to ride a bike is absolutely the right thing to do and you’d be hard pressed to find a parent who would disagree. However if you ask parents whether they feel comfortable letting their children cycle on the streets of our towns and cities today, you’d struggle to find many who would readily raise their hands.
“Without providing children with safe places to continue this habit into their everyday lives, this investment can’t be truly maximised. It’s like training an athlete up for the Olympics and then not putting them on their flight to compete.”
Echoing those sentiments, Cycling UK Chief Executive Paul Tuohy said: “Projects like Bikeability and the Big Bike Revival provide the skills for safer cycling to some of the people who need it the mos. It’s fantastic to see the Government continue to back programmes that deliver and are helping thousands of people every year on their cycling journeys.
“However we won’t get millions more cycling unless there’s further significant investment in infrastructure. Without it the Government is on a highway to failure in getting more people active. Funding for cycling and walking between 2020 and 2025 must increase to between £6 and £8bn to meet the Government’s own targets to double cycle use and increase walking.”
British Cycling Policy Manager Nick Chamberlin added: “Today’s announcement is great news for schoolchildren all over England and recognises the fantastic work that Bikeability providers do to get kids feeling more confident on two wheels.
“Giving children the skills to ride is one piece of the jigsaw, but making our streets safe enough for them to ride to school or for fun with friends will require a truly transformational shift in the way we allocate our transport budget and road space.
“We are encouraged to see that the Government is heading in the right direction, and hope to see this backed up with a bold, long-term funding plan for cycling and walking in next month’s budget.”
The Government has also announced that it will invest £22m in a range of active travel schemes over the next year.
£20m will go to extend the Access Fund, which helps local authorities encourage people to switch to active travel; while £1m will go towards the Big Bike Revival – the grass roots project that encourages people to take up cycling who wouldn’t otherwise consider it.
Another £1m will also be invested in the Walk to School outreach programmes offered by the Cycling UK and Living Streets.
Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK Chief Executive, said:
“Projects like Bikeability and the Big Bike Revival provide the skills for safer cycling to some of the people who need it the most.
"It’s fantastic to see the Government continue to back programmes that deliver and are helping thousands of people every year on their cycling journeys.”
Xavier Brice, CEO for Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, said:
“We welcome the intention to extend Bikeability training to all school children. Walking and cycling for shorter journeys provide great health and environmental benefits.
“And with road transport now accounting for 27% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, making them easier and accessible to more people is one of the best ways to reach our carbon-zero targets.”