CYCLING TO SCHOOL
On Radio 4's "Any Questions" programme on Friday 28th November 2003 one of the questions came from a young girl who sounded about 9-10 years old. She wanted to know what the Government would be doing to reduce car use on the school run - she and her sister wanted to cycle to school, but couldn't because there was too much traffic.
By implication the background to the girl's question is the draft Schools Travel Bill, announced in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday. The Government says that around twenty Councils will be allowed to carry out pilot projects to find innovative ways to improve school travel. The draft Bill will also allow Councils to charge for some school bus services which are currently provided free as long as they spend the money on improving school travel.
CTC believes that Government must work to increase the availability of cycle training for both primary and secondary school pupils, to ensure that its proposals to charge for school buses do not have the unintended effect of increasing car use and congestion on the school run. CTC will seek to ensure that quality cycle training schemes for pupils of all ages should be integral to the pilot programme, and will look at ways to incorporate cycle training into the draft Bill when it is published.
We need 20 mph zones as the speed limit for most urban streets (not just in the immediate vicinity of schools) and in villages where these are supported locally, and 30 mph elsewhere. Children need safe cycling conditions all the way from their homes to school - most child cycle casualties do NOT occur right outside the school gates.
Younger children should not only learn to control their cycles but should be given the opportunity to learn to ride on quiet streets "for real". The training needs to leave their parents feeling confident about letting their children cycle to school, visit friends in their local area etc. Only 27% of primary school age pupils receive training to these standards. .
At secondary school age young people start to "spread their wings", wanting to travel further afield on their own. The trip to school is typically longer, and they also want to visit sports clubs, cinemas and other social and recreational activities. If they are to cycle for these journeys, they need to learn the confidence and skills to handle busier roads. But just 0.7% of secondary pupils receive this standard of training, so it is unsurprising that they continue to ride illegally on pavements, or give up cycling altogether and then reach early adulthood believing that cycling is "too dangerous". If we are to sustain the cycling habit through teens into adulthood, it is essential to boost cycle training among early teenagers.
15% of 15 year olds are now obese, and obesity levels are rising rapidly. The provision of quality cycle training could be extremely cost-effective. It would be a way of giving people the confidence and skills needed to maintain physically active travel as part of their regular routines. It would also help to reduce the huge costs involved in treating conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke and the impact these make on the lives of so many,
Cycle training would also contribute to huge range of other objectives such as reducing air pollution and noise, tackling congestion, and providing independence for many people who currently find themselves excluded from our car-dominated transport system - e.g. children, older people and those on lower incomes.