Children who complete Bikeability cycle training are significantly more likely to cycle to school than untrained children, says a new report commissioned by The Association of Bikeability Schemes (TABS). After cycle training children also have significantly higher levels of confidence cycling on the road, adds the report. This year’s Bikeability School Travel Survey report adds to the research carried out for last year’s report.
In 2013, a study commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council found that school children who have undertaken Bikeability cycle training use their bicycles more frequently than untrained children of the same age. This was based on a survey of 224 children in four Cambridge primary schools. It was found that Bikeability training leads to an uplift of 12.6 percent in the amount of children who cycle to school. Training also leads to an 11 percent increase in the amount of cycling children do with their families away from school.
This year’s report is based on 1,345 survey responses from Year 5 and Year 6 pupils, collected from 25 primary schools across seven English local authorities between March and June 2014.
Survey data by the University of Plymouth compared responses from trained and untrained children in Cambridgeshire with metropolitan and rural local authorities elsewhere. The survey results suggest Bikeability may have a bigger impact on children’s cycling in areas with lower overall levels of cycling.
With regard to cycling to places other than school, the survey evidence suggests that compared with untrained children, trained children cycle to destinations and with people offering greater opportunities for independent mobility, such going out to play with friends or going to the park or recreation ground, the most popular cycling destinations for children.
The survey results suggest trained children enjoy cycling more than untrained children, especially girls who have received cycle training. Trained and untrained children both said that cycling would be more enjoyable if they were allowed to cycle more.
Dr Paul Hewson, associate professor in statistics at Plymouth University, said: “Compared with untrained children, the survey results show trained children reported they cycle more often, cycle more to school, cycle more on the road, cycle with more confidence on the road, and enjoy cycling more. The pattern of these associations provides reassurance that most children filled in the survey forms carefully during class time, as for example children who reported that they enjoy cycling more are likely to be both more confident and cycle more.”
Dr Michael Frearson, director at The Association of Bikeability Schemes, said: “The survey evidence confirms what many schools and parents already know: children love cycling and want to cycle more. The results also suggest Bikeability does a good job giving children the skills and confidence they need to cycle on today’s roads. Arguably, effective cycle training mitigates some of the risks children and adults face when they cycle on the road. However, the survey results also suggest that more than training alone is needed to get more people cycling more often.”
TABS currently has 110 members who together train more than 120,000 children each year.
UPDATE: BikeRight! boss Liz Clarke has added a comment on the story. Clarke told BikeBiz: "This certainly rings true. We train over 18,000 children a year and our instructors go back to the same schools over and over again and always receive positive comments from teachers about the impact of Bikeability.
"Getting children in to cycling at an early age has the potential to break the car habit that's partly responsible for all manner of social and environmental challenges, such as childhood obesity and air pollution."