All children in England will be offered cycle training under Government plans to expand its Bikeability training programme.
The cycling minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, will join world and European champion track cyclist Andy Tennant in a Bikeability session at Newnham Primary School in Daventry.
The commitment will see an additional 400,000 training places offered on the scheme each year, providing children with the core skills to cycle safely and confidently on the road. More than 80% of children aged between eight and ten-years-old own a bike – and since its launch in 2006, more than three million children have already taken part in the Bikeability scheme.
“Cycling is a fun and enjoyable way for children to get to school, the shops or see their friends,” said Heaton-Harris. “It is also environmentally friendly and has a positive impact on their mental and physical health. Extending Bikeability training will inspire the next generation to take to the roads as confident and proficient cyclists and will play an important role in helping us meet our net-zero emission targets.”
Tennant added: “If we want our children to continue cycling into adulthood it is absolutely vital that we equip them with the skills and knowledge to ride at a young age. Learning to cycle is a brilliant way to help children live happy, healthy and independent lives, and we’re absolutely thrilled that so many more children are now going to benefit from the programme in the coming years.”
The announcement comes as the Government has revealed that expected spend between 2016 and 2021 on active travel has doubled to £2.4 billion.
The Government has also today announced that it will invest £22 million in a range of national schemes over the next year. £20 million will go to extend the Access Fund which helps local authorities support more people to cycle and walk, £1 million will go towards the Big Bike Revival – a grassroots project encouraging more than 40,000 people to take up cycling who wouldn’t normally consider it, and £1 million will be invested in the Walk to School outreach programmes offered by the Government’s partners Cycling UK and Living Streets.
Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK chief executive, said: “Projects like Bikeability and the Big Bike Revival provide the skills for safer cycling to some of the people who need it the most. It’s fantastic to see the Government continue to back programmes that deliver and are helping thousands of people every year on their cycling journeys.”
Xavier Brice, CEO for Sustrans, said: “We welcome the intention to extend Bikeability training to all school children. Walking and cycling for shorter journeys provide great health and environmental benefits. And with road transport now accounting for 27% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, making them easier and accessible to more people is one of the best ways to reach our carbon-zero targets.
“The high percentage of Transforming Cities Fund being spent on walking and cycling show that many city leaders have the ambition to make it more convenient for us to walk and cycle. The public is supportive of those plans. Bike Life, the UK’s largest assessment of cycling in seven cities shows 75% of residents would like to see more money spent on cycling infrastructure. And the Government’s own recently published National Travel Survey shows that three-quarters of the population think we should drive less.
“We are looking forward to seeing a long-term, serious investment plan in next month’s budget that will enable cities and towns to deliver high-quality infrastructure so that more people across the UK can do what they want – make everyday journeys safely and easily on foot or by cycle.”
Chris Boardman, cycling and walking commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “Giving all children the opportunity to learn to ride a bike is absolutely the right thing to do and you’d be hard-pressed to find a parent who would disagree. However, if you ask parents whether they feel comfortable letting their children cycle on the streets of our towns and cities today, you’d struggle to find many who would readily raise their hands.
“Without providing children with safe places to continue this habit into their everyday lives, this investment can’t be truly maximised. It’s like training an athlete up for the Olympics and then not putting them on their flight to compete.
“Our world-class plans for cycling and walking in Greater Manchester will enable this safe and accessible network across all ten districts, and kick start the long term culture change that’s happened in places like Copenhagen, where more than 50% of children now ride to school. All we need is for the Government to back us with the funds required to deliver our plan and revolutionise travel for a whole city-region and ultimately, for a nation.”