£18m for Bikeability to continue teaching kids and families to cycle

The Government has today announced that they are continuing to fund the Bikeability scheme into 2022.  The amount of funding for the next year is a record £18 million, which will go towards cycle training for children and families.

Here is a selection of words taken from the Government press release: 

Bikeability is the modern day equivalent of the ‘Cycling Proficiency’ scheme which many parents will themselves have undertaken during their school days.

Bikeability goes beyond the playground, teaching children to cycle safely on modern roads. At different levels, children learn to:

  • Develop early cycle handling and awareness skills (Bikeability Balance)
  • Master pedalling (Bikeability Learn to Ride)
  • Prepare for on-road cycling (Level 1)
  • Cycle on single-lane roads and simple junctions (Level 2)
  • Handle busier streets, complex junctions and roundabouts (Level 3)

For families looking to improve their confidence cycling together, local authorities can offer bespoke Bikeability Family training sessions with an instructor, to help them feel confident in a range of scenarios, from a weekend ride to commuting and taking the children to school.

Here at Cycle Sprog we obviously welcome this ongoing investment to the amazing work that Bikeability do.  After all it was only in February last year that the government announced that they would be funding cycle skills training for every child in the UK.  It’s good to see that they’re continuing this pledge into next year. 

New funding for Bikeability training - learning to ride a bike to school

BUT we also really, really, really hope that the government will invest much more in their “bold vision for cycling and walking”. After all it’s less than a year since Boris Johnson promised to turn Britain into a “Cycling Nation” and sadly the majority of the country isn’t seeing any difference at the moment 

In many areas (particularly away from the major cities) there’s been no additional investment in infrastructure at all. And in some places where it has, the provision is being removed – see Kensington High Street and Shoreham.

Is it really right that our children need to be taught how to cycle on “busier streets, complex junctions and roundabouts”? 

Surely they should be protected from complex junctions and roundabouts, and be learning about “Navigating bike priority junctions, traffic signal operated cycle infrastructure”? 

As we say every time the government makes once of their pronouncements – this isn’t rocket science. 

Teenagers cycling safely to school on protected intrastructure

Some parts of the UK are embracing this, and where the leadership and political will is there (and the funding provided) then massive improvements are being made.   

But for the rest of the country, it’s business as usual – busy roads, poorly designed infrastructure (where it exists) and the school run being done by car. 

We’re a long, long way from having the attitude that those who choose not to drive every local journey are just as important as those in motor vehicles. 

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has kindly supplied a nice quote: 

“Cycling is a fun and healthy way for pupils to get to school, and we want as many as possible to make it their choice of transport. With social distancing still a necessity, the more people who walk or cycle, the more we can ease pressure on public transport as people return to normal life.

“But we know not all children, or parents, feel bike-confident. Today’s funding will kick-start our plans to provide Bikeability training to all children by 2025, giving the next generation of cyclists a life-skill and the confidence they need to choose a more active way to travel.”

Grant Shapps is right to acknowledge that not all children or parents feel bike-confident. But I know from the many, many parents I speak to that lots are bike confident – they’re just not “let my child ride on a busy road” confident.  

I can tell Mr Shapps that there’s nothing “fun” about sitting at home worrying that your older child is safe out cycling on the roads.  And there’s nothing “fun” about trying to navigate busy roads, junctions and roundabouts when you’ve got your younger children loaded up on your bike, or riding along side you. 

We await with baited breath the confirmation that the government are finally going to invest in providing properly designed cycle routes to all schools (and everywhere else for that matter).   

I’d like to end by saying that bike skills training is still incredibly important, even when you do have infrastructure available.   Safely riding on busy cycle paths is a skill that takes time and confidence to acquire. 

I just believe that most parents would much rather their child was being taught to ride alongside other cyclists on properly designed cycling infrastructure, rather than learning how to ride alongside cars, vans, lorries and buses.

Now that would be fun and healthy! 

Do let me know what you think in the comments section below.  Were you happy for your child to ride on the roads after their Bikeability training?  Have you got safe routes for your child to ride to school?

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Other articles you may want to read whilst you’re here (sadly many of them keep on saying the same thing!)

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