It’s all very well hearing pundits moaning about the youth of today sat in front of the TV, playing video games or bullying each other over the internet, but is anyone actually doing anything about it? Is there anyone giving the little blighters the skills they need to safely get out and about? Of course there is. It’s you, Mr and Mrs bike trade.
In November last year, Ian Aitken, chief executive of Cycling Scotland – the national cycle promotion organisation for Scotland – announced that the Bike Hub industry levy was set to contribute £30,000 per annum for cycle training for children in Scotland.
Bikeability – the National Cycle Training Standard – is one of the most valued cycling initiatives by the bike industry. And it’s no different north of the border, as Ian Aitken tells BikeBiz: “Bikeability Scotland is fundamental in preparing young people to use their bikes for getting around. It covers the stages from learning to ride, basic cycle control and junctions through to making journeys on-road, preparing every cyclist to use the road network.”
But was it really such a big deal to consolidate cycle training both sides of the border? Aitken explains why it was: “Integrating the existing cycle training in Scotland with Bikeability means the scheme is more focused, bringing three existing levels into a unified scheme, which really helps spread the message that multi-level cycle training is really important, and we want to see as many children as possible doing all three stages.”
Those three stages start with Level One – covering basic cycle control skills taught in a traffic-free environment. Level Two includes starting and ending and on-road journey, being aware of everything around you, positioning on the road, using junctions to turn right and left, using the Highway Code and recognising important signs.
Level Three sees young riders learn the skills to tackle a wider variety of traffic conditions, deal with all types of road conditions and more challenging traffic situations. The course also covers dealing with hazards, making ‘on-the-move’ risk assessments and planning routes for safer cycling.
Bringing those three levels of formalised training to children in Scotland has all been made possible through the Bike Hub industry levy, as Aitken explains, bringing the training to a wider number of children than before: “Funding from the Bike Hub has been absolutely crucial in establishing Bikeability Scotland. The funding has helped support additional staff positions to provide support for all local authorities in Scotland to develop their local Bikeability Scotland programmes. The cycle training officers play an integral role in helping more local authorities deliver more multi-level training.”
Cycling Scotland itself provides additional funding for Bikeability Scotland, raising the profile of the scheme and supporting volunteering and the workforce that deliver the training, whether through training courses or other targeted support. The organisation also has a number of other initiatives to help children get on bicycles, of course, Aitken explains to BikeBiz, including the Give Me Cycle Space campaign, encouraging drivers to give children as much room as possible on the road to help parents feel confident about letting their children cycle to school.
The creation of Bikeability Scotland combined with Give Me Cycle Space and all the other pro-cycling initiatives Cycling Scotland is running have come at a good time. Scottish cycling could hardly have a higher profile than it has at the moment, from the urban skills of YouTube sensation Danny MacAskill to Edinburgh-born Chris Hoy soon set to try for Olympic success again.
With stars like those inspiring youngsters and Bikeability Scotland giving them the skills they need to get on the road to emulate their cycling heroes and heroines, there’s plenty of encouraging reasons for children to get out on their bikes.