In the age of Greta Thunberg, young people have never been in a better position to make their voices heard. School pupils taking time out of school to demand that governments do something to safeguard their future from a changing climate is a wonderful thing to behold, and it gives me hope for the future.

But in a world where it is considered normal and acceptable for young lungs to ingest all manner of noxious fumes from motor traffic, they could just as well be demanding that governments do something to protect their presents as well as their futures. The young should be entitled to breathe clean air. At school, of course, but also at home and on their journeys to and from. They should expect to be able to travel independently, with their safety being respected above other people’s convenience and need for speed.

To quote a key message from the Brake's campaign; “Healthy journeys are important to help keep us healthy, fit and happy. We need to make sure that choosing to walk or cycle doesn’t put us at increased risk and that the air we breathe on our journeys is clean.

However recent figures show that only 2% of primary school children in England currently travel to school by cycle [1]. This is a stark contrast to cycling levels elsewhere such as in the Netherlands, where cycling is the main mode of transport for 49% of primary school children [2]. These figures suggest that more needs to be done in the UK to make cycling an easy, safe, and appealing option for travelling to school.

We, at the Bikeability Trust are working with local authorities and cycle training organisations around the country to deliver professional cycle training in schools. We believe that undertaking professional cycle training can play a huge part in overcoming some of the initial fears of getting out and about on the roads and will equip young riders with the competence and confidence to cycle well and share the road appropriately with other road users. As well as equip them with other valuable life-skills; independence, decision making, spatial awareness, balance and co-ordination being amongst them!

This is effective, as we know that young riders who have undertaken Bikeability training are more likely to cycle more regularly for a variety of trips subsequently. For instance, a study in 2015 found that trained children were better at perceiving and appropriately responding to on-road hazards and they reported increased confidence cycling on the road after training. [3]

Given all of the above, we are therefore strong supporters of Brake’s ‘Step up for Safe Streets’ campaign – to support a safer, healthier and more sustainable future for the next generation.

We wholly endorse and indeed enable children and families to ‘Step Up’ with the challenges issued by Brake for Road Safety Week 2019, particularly:

  • “Individuals can step up by pledging to use roads safely, minimise vehicle use and shout out for safe system solutions.”
  • “Schools can help young people step up and learn how to create a safe and healthy future and shout out for change.”

These are issues we are passionate about and believe that you should be too. It is in all our hands to make a difference.

For more information about Bikeability:

[1] Walking and Cycling Statistics, England: 2018, Department for Transport

[2] Contribution to the Transport Planning Research Colloquium, 2008, Santpoort

[3] NfER 2015 hazard perception and risk mitigation study

Paul Robison

Paul Robison

Project director, DfT