What’s stopping children biking to school?

Over two weeks in June the Active Communities team surveyed nearly 1000 children at Primary Schools across Birmingham to see how they have traveled to school and how they would have liked to travel and the difference is pretty striking:

It won’t come as a surprise to our cycling teams delivering ‘Bikeability’ in hundreds of Birmingham schools that children love to bike, but can’t .

Interviewing children, parents and local people on Clean Air Day

We took the opportunity to ask children what they thought was stopping them getting to school the way they wanted to. Here are some of their comments:

‘My Mum has to get my sister to her school too.’

‘It’s easier. We just get in the car.’

‘It’s just what we have to do.’

‘The roads are too dangerous’

‘I can’t ride a bike on the roads’

Clean Air Day Assembly at one of the schools we visited.

Most importantly we asked what they can do to make it more likely to travel the way they want to:

‘Bikeability’s helped give me confidence.’

‘I can talk to my parents’

‘It’s not up to me, but if more people understood [about Clean Air]’

‘If the roads had less traffic on…’

‘When the roads are closed it’s great’ [riding a bike – refering to Active Streets Road closure]’

Bikeability is a Government funded scheme for cycling proficiency, and more! It’s about gaining practical skills and understanding how to cycle on today’s roads. Bikeability gives everyone the skills and confidence for all kinds of cycling. In Birmingham it’s delivered by Birmingham Big Bikes.

There are three Bikeability levels, each designed to improve cycling skills, no matter what is known already. Levels 1, 2 and 3 take trainees from the basics of balance and control, all the way to planning and making an independent journey on busier roads.

But as the children said, just having more confident, proficient young cyclists may not by itself lead to more children cycling to school as they want to – Bikeability has been running for many years now, and although many more cyclists have improved their ability to bike, it has not led to many more children cycling to school. That’s why we’re looking at more radical solutions like limiting traffic around schools to improve air quality and encourage more people to either leave their cars behind or at least not park outside their school where they pose a health hazard both for road safety and polluting the air our children breathe.

We’ll be posting more about what our children, parents and other people are saying to us about air quality, and what we can do to make a difference.

Aig Quality and environmentActive Communities