By Keith Bingham published
New evidence of a decline in the numbers of children cycling was revealed by Cycling England, the government funded body, on the eve of Bike to School Week recently.
Over a quarter of children (29 percent) are only allowed to cycle with adult supervision. Although 75 percent are allowed to cycle for recreation at the weekend or after school, only 19 percent (one-in-five) were allowed to cycle as a means of transport, to get from one place to another.
It all adds up to the emergence of ?Cul-de-sac Kids?, as parents set rigid limits to children?s natural inclinations to roam.
The findings will reinforce Cycling England?s aim to expand Bikeability, the new national cycling proficiency scheme that includes on-road training, to every school in England.
For when asked what would make them feel more reassured about their children cycling without adult supervision, 52 percent of parents said cycle training. As many as two third felt that their child lacked the confidence and skills to cycle on the road.
The study revealed that parents are restricting the freedom they took for granted, when it was common that children from the age of 10 took to the roads. But since then traffic has increased dramatically. Today, age 12 is the earliest a child may be allowed to use the roads. Parents are limiting when and where their children cycle.
According to the survey, one in three parents (35 percent) were permitted to cycle to school. Today, only one in five (18 percent) are allowed to do so. Only four percent of children cycle regularly to school.
Some 81 percent of parents ban their children from cycling independently, or limit their children?s cycling to using only the road in front of the house, and perhaps others nearby. Yet only three percent said they knew someone who had had an accident.
Philip Darnton, chair of Cycling England, said: ?This research underlines the important role of cycling training in giving children the skills and confidence they need to cycle on the roads ? and giving parents the reassurance that their child is well equipped to do so.?
He said that concern about safety is understandable, but pointed out that road accidents are in decline.
Cycling England has recruited a nationwide ?Mums Panel? to promote the benefits of cycling and encourage more to do the Bikeability scheme. One such panellist is Emma Calloway from Bristol who said that completing the Bikeability course gave her the confidence to pass on to her children. Kevin Brennan, MP, the Children, Schools and Families Minister, has given his support to the Bikeability scheme.
Keith Bingham joined the Cycling Weekly team in the summer of 1971, and retired in 2011. During his time, he covered numerous Tours de France, Milk Races and everything in-between. He was well known for his long-running 'Bikewatch' column, and played a pivotal role in fighting for the future of once at-threat cycling venues such as Hog Hill and Herne Hill Velodrome.
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