Via the League of American Bicyclists’ LCI group, I recently learned of this study from the UK that examines the impact of a cycling training program on the bicycling behavior and perceptions of children who have gone through the program.
Bikeability is a public-private partnership in the UK that teaches cycling skills for the 21st century. Three levels are taught, each awarding “certificates and shiny luminous badges” for children who complete each course. The website for the program is brilliant and quite a lot of fun (example: “If you are a child and you want to do your Bikeability, speak to your mum, dad or guardian. Or hassle your teacher at school!”)
To gauge the impact of the Bikeability program, a survey was conducted on behalf of Cycling for England and the Department of Transport to establish attitudes towards cycling, current cycling behaviour and awareness of, participation in and experience of Bikeability. While Bikeability is available to all ages, the survey focused on children in school years 5 and 6 and their parents.
- Children who took part in Bikeability feel safer and more confident
when riding on the road (86%)
- Their parents feel more confident in allowing their children to ride on the road (87%)
- Children who have participated feel more confident about riding their bike more often (87%)
- Parents report an increased frequency in cycling after their children taken part in
Bikeability (51% of children say they ride more; 49% of parents report an increase)
Per the study, participation in the education program encourages children to make new types of journeys using their bike. Children who have taken part in the program are more likely to cycle to get to places (friends’ houses, shops) and more likely to say that they always cycle on the road than those who have not.
This is a powerful study with potential application into the United States. A program of bicycle education for children is highly compatible with Safe Routes to Schools, and could be executed using League of American Bicyclists curriculum as part of a SRTS program. Many schools who take part in SRTS and who receive grants from the program do various levels of training and outreach to students and parents to encourage safe cycling behaviors. This study suggests that putting together a more comprehensive program that can be implemented at the local level using national curriculum could be a powerful driver of increased cycling and confidence.
Photo by David Kelly, via Flickr