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There have been a few reports in the media over the past couple of weeks that have caught my eye. Several schools have made the headlines for making decisions and statements about cycling to school.
An independent school in Cambridge is reported to be telling all pupils that they must wear high-visibility clothing and helmets, and not wear headphones. Transgressions to the rules will face a letter home to parents or a detention, and this can apply to cycling both on and off the school premises.
An academy school in St Albans has also decreed that children must not cycle to school on the pavement, and must wear cycle helmets when cycling to school.
Really disappointed with this @SandringhamSch1 – will lead to a) fewer children cycling b) reduced child safety c) more traffic congestion and d) worse pollution. Children should be taught to cycle safely and with care for pedestrians. School could be more robust with complaints pic.twitter.com/uk0cr3vLml
— David Stacey (@staceyzoo) November 9, 2017
However, at the same time, studies have found a “stark” increase in the proportion of children in the UK who are overweight or obese. The study of nearly 12,000 children found 25% were overweight or obese at age seven, rising to 35% at 11.
Surely, given the new research about obesity levels (and we seem to get similar findings reported on a regular basis), combined with ongoing problems with pollution affecting children’s health, shouldn’t every effort be made to get children, of all ages, to cycle or walk to school?
I can see why schools take the path of least resistance when it comes to trying to keep their pupils from upsetting local residents. I also believe that these schools do want to stop their pupils from getting injured (or worse) in accidents. However, punishing children for bad behaviour, or for not wearing a cycle helmet (which is not a legal requirement in the UK), is only tackling a VERY small part of the problem. Yes, I do occasionally see dangerous cycling by some school children – some of which makes me very worried, and I wish someone would educate them into how to ride more safely. But I also sometimes see bad cycling by adults too. This is nowhere near as often as I see dangerous driving by cars, vans and lorries.
None of the people in this picture are wearing helmets or hi-viz. I suspect teachers would take a different view on matters if they had this type of route to their school.
Here’s a short list of things that I believe every school and local authority should be doing, with support from national governments:
I’m sure there are other things that can be done to encourage more families to swap the car for a more active school run. I’d love to hear your ideas (or what’s stopping you from making the switch) in the comments below.
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