UK Politics

Ministers pledge increase in children's cycle training

Child cycling behind an adult Image copyright Getty Images

The government has pledged to make cycling proficiency lessons available to every child in England.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said an extra 400,000 training places per year would be delivered by a funding boost to the Bikeability programme.

The scheme offers more training on roads than the playground-based Cycling Proficiency Test it replaced in 2006.

Cycling UK said the government would not get millions more cycling without infrastructure investment.

The Bikeability scheme provides free or subsidised lessons through schools, councils and trainers.

According to the Transport department, the timescale and cost for introducing the extra places has yet to be determined.

However, ministers said spending on cycling and walking schemes had doubled since 2016, and was set to reach £2.4bn.

Announcing the commitment, Cycling Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said ministers wanted to inspire the "next generation" of cyclists.

He added that a boost in cycling would improve children's mental and physical health, and help the UK meet emissions reduction targets.

Extending cycle proficiency training to every child was a commitment made by the Conservatives in their manifesto for December's general election.

Labour also pledged to increase funding available to boost cycling, while the Lib Dems said a tenth of transport spending should go towards cycling and walking.

'Highway to failure'

Cycling UK welcomed the announcement, but said encouraging significant numbers of new cyclists would require major investment.

The charity's chief executive Paul Tuohy said: "We won't get millions more cycling unless there's further significant investment in infrastructure.

"Without it, the government is on a highway to failure in getting more people active."

He added £6-8bn would need to be spent on cycling and walking projects over the next five years if the government's uptake targets are to be met.

Lessons through the Bikeability scheme are available to children in England as soon as they can ride a bicycle without stabilisers.

Similar schemes also exist in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Transport for London funds its own programme.

'Brexit vote'

Paul Robison, the chief executive of the Bikeability Trust, a charity which administers the scheme, also welcomed the government's announcement.

"The value-for-money that this investment represents cannot be overstated," he said.

"Independent research confirms Bikeability helps children cycle more safely, more often. And children who cycle regularly are more likely to become active adults."

Mr Robison has said he will step down from his role, hinting at disagreements with the government over its policy of leaving the EU.

"I shan't go in detail into my reasons for stepping down but suffice it to say that, since the Brexit vote, I have not felt proud to be British," he wrote last month.

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