About the Bikeability Trust
The Bikeability Trust is the national charity for Bikeability, the Department for Transport’s cycle education programme. Cycling is a life skill and learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage. Education, together with infrastructure and enforcement, helps more people cycle, more safely, more often.
Bikeability is based on the Government’s National Standard for cycle and instructor training. It prepares people to cycle everywhere cycling is permitted, and contributes to delivering the transport, environmental, health and economic benefits that more people cycling promises.
Bikeability is a progressive programme in which trainees first master cycle handling skills in traffic-free environments (Level 1), then develop the skills and confidence to cycle on local roads and simple junctions (Level 2), before tackling often busier, multi-lane roads and complex junctions (Level 3). Additional ‘Bikeability Plus’ modules aim to increase the take up of Bikeability training in schools and its impact on children’s cycling.
The Bikeability Trust strategy to 2025 aims that Bikeability is the leading cycle training:
By 2025 the Bikeability Trust aims to have helped more than 5 million children take up Bikeability cycle training. We will have also offered thousands more families and adults the chance to take up cycle training.
The Bikeability Trust welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the House of Lord’s Committee on the National Plan for Sport and Recreation. We are providing evidence only on the questions where the Committee welcomed our expertise.
During the first lockdown in the spring of 2020, cycling levels increased by as much as 600% in some places. The Government message around leaving the car at home and taking daily exercise resonated with families across the UK and children were some of the biggest beneficiaries of vehicle traffic dropping to levels not seen since the 1950’s. The message about enabling children to make active journeys is not a new one, but we need a more concerted effort to keep us this level of active travel.
Bikeability cycle training plays a huge part in enabling more children to have the skills to do this and has been delivered to over 3.5million children in England since 2007. Funded by the Department for Transport it provides annually over 400,000 places for children, through an evidence based training program helping children to develop confidence to cycle. This training is also proven to be even more effective when linked to local plans for building active travel infrastructure, providing children with the skills not just to navigate the infrastructure on main routes, but also to navigate the local roads in neighborhoods.
Research into the effectiveness of Bikeability has shown a positive impact on:
The case for investing in cycling has been laid in the Prime Minister’s ambitious vision ‘Gear Change’, which recognises the huge benefits to health, wellbeing, congestion, business, environment, air quality, climate change and economy.
Sport and activity is vital for children’s mental health, for their self-esteem, and to improve sleep, physical health, social skills and team working; but we also know that it helps children to improve their academic performance. Sport achieves these things by many mechanisms, but particularly by improving concentration. Studies show that GCSE results are better for those children who do more sport. We believe that cycling delivers significant impact for children.
Barrier: Curriculum Time
Through the Bikeability course, children can achieve their full potential to cycle to the National Standards of Cycling; meaning more confidently and safely on the road.
Currently, as Bikeability is not part of the statutory curriculum, there is no protected teaching time and no leadership accountability for delivering as part of the broad and balanced curriculum in schools. Schools have many demands on their time, but seeing cycling as a life skill that helps children’s wellbeing, health, safety and independence in the same way that swimming has a statutory requirement will increase take up. We have wide variance in take up, which is often aligned to Headteacher discretion. In 2019, we estimated 85% of schools in Cambridgeshire took up Bikeability compared to only 14% in Bradford.
84% of parents surveyed in Bike to School week said they do not want to drive their children to school, and 4 in 5 parents wants cycling skills to be part of the National Curriculum[2]. Sport and cycling also crosses in to the main stream curriculum by providing a practical way of delivering numeracy and other core curriculum material.
However, this is not solely about encouraging more children to cycle to school, instilling a love and joy of cycling through early child development will impact on future life choices and so it is vital to embed cycling in early childhood.
Barrier: Lack of Infrastructure
We welcome the vision in Gear Change to dramatically invest in infrastructure including cycling, bus and walking corridors, low traffic-neighbourhoods and Mini-Hollands. We strongly support the inclusion of ‘school streets’. Infrastructure dramatically increases the number of people cycling, and investment is required to improve cycling experience across the country.
We also hear from practice anecdote from our Instructors and Training Providers:
However, infrastructure alone is not the sole answer, cycling training wherever cycling is permitted is vital in ensuring that everyone has the skills and knowledge to choose active travel with confidence.
Barrier: Parent and Children’s Fear
We recognise that the role of parents and carers in being an advocate in developing children’s confidence to cycle is significant. In training our Instructors often hear that parents and carers can be a significant negative barrier to allowing children to cycle. If parents and carers are not themselves cyclists they are more likely to prevent their children from cycling, and most often cite road safety fear as the rationale.
In response to this to Trust has already developed resources for parents and schools and will do further work in 2021 to target parents and carers with information about cycling with confidence. See: Bikeability | Professional cycle training | Tools for Schools and Bikeability | Put cycling training skills into practice by cycling as a family. We have also developed a whole new Bikeability course for Families to learn together; raising the skill and confidence of both parents and children together.
The Bikeability programme is built on teaching children to cycle with confidence wherever cycling is permitted by demonstrating ability to cycle to the National Standards of Cycling. Through our independent evaluation we have found that:
Source: Ipsos MORI 2015, Parent and child perceptions of Bikeability.
The Trust supports the vision of Gear Change in investment in infrastructure and the continued offering of training for every child and every adult. Delivered together the cycling revolution is more achievable.
Currently the funding available via the Department for Transport for Bikeability training enables a proportion of all of England’s school children to receive grant funded training. The ambition in Gear Change is that every adult and every child should be offered cycle training and we are working with the Department for Transport on the plans for investment in cycle training. Our published delivery statistics are in the Appendix, and the government have just announced an increased £18million investment in the 2021 year Bikeability funding. £18 million announced for cycle training for children and their families - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Bikeability funding is awarded by competitive bidding by Local Highways Authorities and School Games Organisers. All English Highways Agencies are now Grant Recipients and our courses cover the whole of England. Note that we do not cover London as the funding is run by Transport for London. Grant funding is not distributed on the basis of population in a locality, and demand is always higher than we have grant funding to distribute. Therefore not all schools and not all children in England will currently have the chance to take up Bikeability in 2021.
It is though our ambition to ensure that every child has a chance to receive Bikeability training by 2025, and this is an ambition restated in the Gear Change vision. We are working hard at the moment with our partners to support Bikeability providers and instructors to scale-up in response to increased funding so they can deliver more training places at the same high-quality, professional training level. Ultimately, we are committed to our vision to ensure that everyone has the confidence to cycle and enjoy this skill for life, and will be pushing for the investment in funding to reach every child in the forthcoming Government Spending Review and through the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.
All Bikeability instructors are fully qualified and trained to an Ofqual regulated standard to deliver high quality Bikeability courses to anyone, across the country and on any form of cycle, provided it is roadworthy. Training will be delivered to ensure it fits with the individual’s abilities and will attempt to remove any barriers to participation.
Outside of the funding to reach every child, the Bikeability Trustrecognises that there are further barriers to accessing Bikeability in England and we are actively taking action to address this, starting with looking at who and who isn’t being trained. The 2021/22 Bikeability grant terms and conditions include a requirement to report trainee characteristics (anonymously and at an aggregate level) of children taking part in training by:
This data has not been systematically collated in the past, therefore Bikeability Trust does not hold accurate and reliable data that would enable us to plan targeted interventions on under-represented groups in training delivery. Therefore, we believe from practice anecdote the barriers to accessing Bikeability are:
Throughout 2021 we will be gathering the characteristics of trainees and will then analyse against school level population data. This will give a more accurate picture of take up and enable us, the Bikeability Trust, to plan with our Training Providers interventions that enable all children to take up Bikeability. We are also fundraising through our charitable status to be able to provide additional funding to take action on barriers to participation, including cycle ownership.
Whilst we build on the picture of evidence around take up of Bikeability, it is vital to note that many of our Bikeability Training Providers already work hard to ensure that all children can access Bikeability and we have a number of measures in place for providers:
In addition, many of our Training Providers have invested through their own finances in:
The Bikeability Trust has also invested our own charitable funds (our Innovation Fund) and we recently released £300,000 of grant funding for 18 SEND pilot projects. The purpose of this funding was to:
The pilot projects are being evaluated by Oxford Brookes and Cardiff University researchers and we expect results of the evaluation in Autumn 2021. This evaluation will further build the case for what targeted interventions have the most impact on SEND children. Our Innovation Fund will also release further funds in 2021 on targeted interventions likely with under-represented groups in cycling and we are currently considering the next steps for the fund.
As Department for Transport builds up the plan to offer to ‘every child’, we will clearly need to define what this means, for example offer every child in England Bikeability Balance, Learn to Ride, Level1, Level, 2 and Level 3. However, the ambition and direction is contingent on securing the funding in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, and dependent on the outcome the offer may need to be refined.
The Bikeability Trust is committed to our mission and vision to ensure every child has the confidence to cycle and we welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to the Committee.
For more information about Bikeability Trust: www.bikeability.org.uk
Appendix: Bikeability Delivery Statistics
Bikeability has now been delivered to more than 3.5million children in England (not including London figures) since in started in 2006. The Bikeability Trust took over operations of the Bikeability programme in 2017.
Figures are broken down by Local Highway Authority (LHA) and School Games Organiser Host Schools (SGOHSs). The Bikeability programme has now been delivered to over 3.5million children in England.
We report delivery statistics annually: Bikeability | Documents and reports relating to Bikeability cycle training
Regional delivery of places (2019/20)
* Excludes any London data, as Bikeability funding is provided by Transport for London
Yorkshire & The Humber
Regional distribution of funding (2019/20)
Yorkshire & The Humber
Delivery figures (2019/20)
Number of children in year 6 in England (excluding London) 2019/20
Number of combined level 1 & 2 places and level 2 places delivered in 2019/20
% of year 6 children in England receiving either L1&2 combined or L2 Bikeability training
* Using pupil data source: Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2019 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Note: Additional, paid-for training is also available in many local authority areas, but the Bikeability Trust does not hold data on how many paid for additional places are delivered in local authority areas. We solely report on DfT grant funded places.
23 April 2021
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