The government is being urged to introduce a minimum standard of everyday cycling education and support for schools in England by 2016 to tackle childhood obesity.
Olympic cycling gold medallist Dani King is backing the calls, initiated by Sustrans.
Mountain biking has been on the curriculum in Scotland since 2010 and some English local authorities are teaching school children cycling as part of the curriculum – including in Derby since 2007, but the call is for a wider reaching, country-wide change.
Such a measure would save the country money. Physical inactivity among young people cost taxpayers in England £760 million last year – a new gold standard would build exercise into every day routines at a fraction of the cost.
Sustrans has compiled a report ‘Going for Gold’ calling for cycle integration into school lessons so every student has access to regular training in safety and maintenance, as well as somewhere to park their bike. The one-off training sessions commonly opted for in schools do little to change long term habits, Sustrans said, with two per cent of children cycling to school regularly.
“It’s a national tragedy that so few of our children are able to enjoy the benefits of daily exercise and the freedom of cycling to school," said Sustrans chief exec Malcolm Sheppard.
“Competitive sport is great but it’s not for everyone – we need opportunities for our Olympic-inspired kids to be active every day.“
Sustrans already runs a programme supporting schools to reach a gold cycling standard which succeeds in trebling student cycling levels. Two schools in Surrey and one in Kent have recently achieved Sustrans’ highest award – the first to do so in the UK.
Olympic cycling gold medallist Dani King added: “I speak to so many kids who would love to cycle to school but they don’t have the right training to do so safely or the facilities at school for their bikes.
“We know kids who cycle to school are healthier, more confident and perform better in their lessons.
“If we want to see a real change in the number of kids riding to school, and the benefits that entails, we need a minimum level of cycling education and facilities in every school in the UK.”
Register for the BikeBiz News Digest at the registration page.