Schools across England will benefit from £2m of new Department for Transport funding designed to get more children riding their bike or walking to school.
The announcement comes during Bike to School Week (28 September to 2 October), during which children up and down the country are being encouraged to ride to school to stay fit and to help reduce the number of cars on the school run. There are two streams of activity, each receiving £1m. One stream, run by Cycling UK and the Bikeability Trust, will be focussed on upgrading cycles to be used by children and the other on encouraging walking to school. The other, focussed on walking, is being run by Sustrans.
Cycling and Walking Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Cycling and walking is good for people and the planet’s health, so we want half of all journeys being cycled or walked by 2030. To do that, we must encourage young people to see cycling and walking 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!”
Cycling UK has been awarded £1m of funding from the Department of Transport to extend the Big Bike Revival into schools in England for the first time. The Big Bike Revival in England helped thousands of adults to start or get back into cycling as a safe way to travel this summer. Cycling UK said it can now scale up its work with the Bikeability Trust to support children to be able to complete cycle training on safe, road worthy bikes.
The programme will see cycle repair workshops set up in primary schools and local neighbourhoods to make sure students’ bikes are fit for the road.
Heaton-Harris said ‘Doctor Bike’ clinics would be rolled out from next month, targeting areas where children, including those with disabilities, are more likely to need support in getting their bikes roadworthy for regular use on the school run.
Pop-up Doctor Bike mechanic stations will be set up in schools to help fix bikes for around 10,000 children so they are ready to cycle. The work in schools will mean that those from age five upwards will be encouraged to discover cycling, compliment Big Bike Revival delivery in workplaces and at other community settings, where families will also be supported to cycle together.
Many school pupils missed Bikeability training due to the extended closure of schools, school leaders are keen to see cycling training re-start after the October half term.
Cycling UK said it will help to ensure bikes are safe and roadworthy, meaning time will be saved allowing Bikeability instructors to focus on teaching the skills enabling pupils to be confident on a bicycle. Jenny Box, Cycling UK’s head of behaviour change in England said: “We know that cycling equates for around 3% of journeys to and from school in England, whereas in the Netherlands around a third of children regularly cycle to school. We need to grasp the opportunity to change that.
“The last six months has been hugely disruptive for everyone, including children who have only recently begun returning to a very different learning environment after months of being educated at home. By extending the Big Bike Revival into schools, we can ensure that thousands of children can resume cycle training, which really is a skill for life. Cycling is one of the best ways to get around particularly during lockdown and let’s not forget, is also great fun.”
Since May, more than 3,500 bikes have been fixed thanks to the Big Bike Revival, and more than 150 partners are delivering Dr Bikes in locations across England thanks to Department of Transport funding. Dr Bike sessions are being run in communities for everyone and in workplaces for employees and ensure qualified mechanics deliver a bike safety check and can get basic repairs carried out for free.
Working in schools will enable the national cycling charity to reach new geographic areas and extend the opportunity for more people to choose to use the bicycle for short journeys.
The Bikeability Trust and Cycling UK are also hoping to work outside schools, with the Trust planning to launch more than 2,000 Family Bikeability courses in the coming months. The BBR programme has been running for six years via an established network of partners that can help to provide community settings to support around half of the total number of these courses to be delivered.
Bikeability training has also recently restarted in schools across England, helping children gain confidence and boost their cycling skills.
Walking and cycling to school
A further £1m has also been announced to boost the number of children walking to school. The Walk to School Outreach Programme – which the Department for Transport said has already generated four million new walking trips – is being extended to roll out further measures to support walking.
Measures will include tackling the barriers that may prevent children and their families choosing to walk to and from school, as well as providing schools with classroom materials and access to local coordinators who can help schools get new walking initiatives up and running.
Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris 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 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!
The Bike to School programme is run by the charity Sustrans. Xavier Brice, chief executive of Sustrans Xavier Brice said: “Our new research shows that the majority of UK parents support changes that have already been made to the streets and places in their local area to make walking and cycling to school easier. It has also identified that interventions, such as cycle routes separated from road traffic, safer junctions and cycling training would help families travel actively to school more.”
The £2m funding is part of a wider plan to create safer streets for cycling and walking, following the launch of £2 billion in government investment to encourage even more people to choose active travel.
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