Striking new evidence of a generational decline in cycling has been revealed by Cycling England. A study - which coincides with the launch of Bike to School Week (6-9 May) - reveals that parents are clamping down on the freedoms they took for granted as children, limiting when, where and how their children cycle.
The most common age at which parents were able to cycle on the roads was 10. Today it has gone up to 12, almost at the onset of the teenage years.
One in three parents (35 percent) were allowed to cycle to school, but today, only one in five (18 percent) allow their children to do so. Just 4 perceny of children cycle to school regularly.
Parents are no longer giving their children the run of local roads. 81 percent of parents ban their children from cycling independently, or limit their children's cycling to such a degree that Britain is seeing an emerging breed of "Cul-de-sac Kids" – children restricted to cycling circuits of their immediate road or neighbourhood streets.
When asked what would make them feel more reassured about their child cycling without adult supervision on the roads, the most popular measure was cycle training (52 percent). And two-thirds (64 percenbt) of parents felt that their child did not have the confidence and skills to ride on the road. The biggest reason as to why parents did not let their child cycle was safety (36 percent) yet just 3 percent said they knew someone who'd had an accident.
This fear has resulted in over a quarter of children (29 percent) only allowed to cycle with adult supervision. While three quarters (75 percent) of children are allowed to cycle for recreation at the weekend or after school, only one in five (19 percent) are allowed to use their bicycle as a way of getting from A to B during the week.
Phillip Darnton, Chairman of Cycling England, said: "This research underlines the important role of cycling training in giving children the skills and confidence they need to cycle on the roads - and in giving parents the reassurance that their child is well equipped to do so.
"Concern about safety is understandable, but we need to remember that on-road accidents are in long term decline. Every parent will want to ensure their children are kept safe, but they can't live out their lives within the shadows of the cul-de-sac, never able to venture further away from home. This is particularly important, as we know that cycling to school, to friends, or just as a fun activity in its own right, can play a hugely positive role in the development of a child's independence. I urge schools to come forward and offer Bikeability training as part of the push to get children cycling."
To help promote the benefits of children cycling more often, Cycling England has recruited a nationwide 'Mums Panel' that uses parent power to promote the benefits of cycling and encourage take up of Bikeability – the new cycling proficiency scheme for the 21st century.
Mums Panellist Emma Calloway, from Bristol, said:
"Completing Bikeability training as a parent not only gave me a confidence that I can pass onto my children, but also reinforced the notion that bikes have the same right to be on the roads as other vehicles.
"Since my children started cycling to school they have benefited in all sorts of ways – they are healthier, more alert and more confident."
Children, Schools and Families Minister, Kevin Brennan, said:
"Cycling to school is a great way for children to keep fit and develop their independence. 'Bike to School Week' is a really good way of encouraging children and their parents to get on their bikes, and develop a habit that promotes health and fitness for life. Staying safe while cycling is also very important and that is why I'm delighted to support the Bikeability cycling proficiency test to give the next generation the skills and confidence to ride their bikes on today's roads."
The research report was conducted online for Cycling England by Populus, who interviewed a random sample of 1,079 parents, whose children had bikes and were aged between 7 and 15.