The Covid-19 pandemic has allowed many thousands of people discover or rekindle the joy of cycling. We recently wrote about some of the schemes the Government is putting in place to support cycling and the move towards more sustainable transport, but for cycling to remain more than a “pandemic trend”, we need to get children used to using their bikes for transport. This week, launched in conjunction with “Bike to school” week, the Government announced a £2 million pot dedicated to help more children cycle and walk to school.
Data from Cycling UK said that in 2018, just 2% of 5-10 year olds and 4% of 11-16 year olds cycled to school each day. Clearly, there is a lot of room for improvement. The good news is however, that 44.3% of them are walking to school, but given that the average distance to school is 2.4 miles, there are still 35.7% driving in a car and 14.7% taking a bus (private or public), which clearly is not so good and could be so easily changed.
so, what will this new funding do?
Sadly, £2m doesn’t go far these days, especially when it’s a national pot however, the money is intending to launch cycle repair workshops (“Dr Bike Clinics”) in primary schools and local neighbourhoods to ensure that children’s bikes in good working order. These Dr Bike Clinics will start from next month in areas where children are more likely to need support in getting their bikes up to scratch to use for commuting.
If this works, it would be fantastic, however until we know how many children will actually benefit from the scheme it will be hard to tell. On a positive note however, if children can be encouraged to use their bikes to travel to school from a young age, hopefully this will just become part of their routine and they will be more likely to continue using a bicycle in later life. This will not only help improve our environment but will have a positive impact on children’s physical and mental wellbeing. Speaking from personal experience I certainly know I’m a much happier person when I’ve cycled to work so I really do hope that this could have a positive impact.
The scheme was launched by the cycling and walking minster, Chris Heaton-Harris who said:
“Cycling and walking is good for people and the planet’s health, so we want half of all journeys to be cycled or walked by 2030. To do that, we must encourage young people to see cycling and walking as as normal as getting the bus or train.
“This funding will support schools and local communities to get more children walking to school, and set up bike surgeries that will help children get their bikes ready to roll, so they can start their day healthy and happy!”
Back in February, before Covid-19 had taken over our lives, the Government also showed support for children cycling to school by pledging to get every child access to a Bikeability course, essentially the new cycling proficiency many people reading this will remember. It was a bold statement and I imagine there may be many hurdles along the way, however, with this funding and support to get kid’s bikes fixed, it’s a decent start.
Thankfully we have excellent charities such as Cycling UK and Sustrans in this country who champion cycling, in particular for children as well as lobby Government to ensure that cycling as a a means of transport, as well as a leisure and fitness activity are central to all of our lives. Much progress has been made, and we will watch with anticipation to see how this latest funding pot succeeds and whether in a few years time we can see some real change in that pie chart. That said, I’m pretty sure lots of kids would like to cycle to school, and perhaps it’s the parents that need convincing?