How can we get more people to take up cycle training?

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  • The MPs involved in the inquiry 'Get Britain cycling!' have asked TABS what it would take to get more people taking up Bikeability or National Standard cycle training.

    I am working on a paper to submit and am looking for some more ideas.

    Barriers include:

    *Some Local Authorities do not claim the Bikeability funding or only a small amount
    *Many school aren't interested or feel pressure of the school curriculum especially secondary schools
    *If a young person can't ride at all or doesn't have a bike they are excluded
    *Adult training is hardly funded or promoted outside London and even in London take up could be more of there was less stigma attached to 'considering cycle training'

    I have some ideas as to what may help and would be interested in hearing more.

    1. Make it compulsory in the curriculum, as swimming is.
    2. Headteachers who don't cycle often make poor advocates. If not 1, then maybe it should be a compulsory part of Headteachers training qualification or CPD to do Bikeability.
    3. Obtain a list of schools in a LA who don't provide cycle training, via FoI request, and challenge Governors and Councillors as well as the Head for their reasons not to give training. Take to press if no success.
    4. Provide bikes.
  • Swimming is sort of on the curriculum. Getting cycle training considered at least as important as swimming would be a coup. One slight concern I have with this is the link to school sports and cycle training isn't a sport.

    I like your second point speshact. Perhaps we should go round the teacher union conferences offering Bikeability taster sessions...

  • Encourage the media to propagate even more cycling-is-really-dangerous rhetoric than they already do, but with the caveat that the danger will be nullified by cycle training, which will also increase the value of your house, and ensure that benefit cheats are punished.

  • Change the image of cycle training from riding very slowly through cones in a car park to something that can be integrated into a pleasant trip around the streets of a nice area (obviously this is applicable for higher-level adult training, rather than teaching kids how to ride bikes).

  • You're right ffm, the cones in the playground image is problematic and off putting I agree. Many Bikeability schemes still over-emphasise the hi-viz / helmet thing (Google Bikeability images and you'll see flourotacular pictures) so yes I suppose one point is for the sector to take on some responsibility to how the training looks.

    There definitely needs to be more adult oriented marketing

  • Encourage the media to propagate even more cycling-is-really-dangerous rhetoric than they already do, but with the caveat that the danger will be nullified by cycle training, which will also increase the value of your house, and ensure that benefit cheats are punished.
    What about immigrant Princess Dianas?

  • You're right ffm, the cones in the playground image is problematic and off putting I agree. Many Bikeability schemes still over-emphasise the hi-viz / helmet thing (Google Bikeability images and you'll see flourotacular pictures) so yes I suppose one point is for the sector to take on some responsibility to how the training looks.

    There definitely needs to be more adult oriented marketing

    Cycle training is a marketing disaster. Much as I hate advertising and marketing in general, there needs to be some specialist input to make it more attractive to people - as you say, its the adults who need to be turned. Without changing parents' attitudes I see few children being able to cycle regularly. Some schools are bringing parents on board through bike clubs which seems a good idea. Most teacher bodies are hardly enthusiastic about cycling either. It would be nice to be able to give teachers training before the kids.

    At the moment there is no foundation for anything even resembling a cycling culture in most schools. And thus the bikeability syllabus seems quite standalone.

  • You need some attractive* role models involved then; not necessarily celebrity cyclists.

  • Cycle training is a marketing disaster. .

    Yes there are genuine issues with it and with adult's appreciation of its value. Not sure I would describe it as a disaster, at least the Bikeability brand has taken off and recognised as an update to the cycling proficiency test.

    And you are right about the parent's being a barrier for the young people actually being allowed to use their recently acquired cycling skills which links to BMMF's point about the cycling is dangerous frenzy.

    Less than 50% young people in the relevant school cohort can access training and out of those that do not many are allowed to cycle to school despite genuinely having learnt the skills to do so.

  • Could you not lean on more employers also via state incentives / subsidy? The need to commute and the cost thereof is another major opportunity to increase uptake in cycling and associated training. I'm not discounting the value in planting the seed whilst at school, but the 'mission' needs reinforcing at key junctures in life. Similarly it might be good to develop something targeted at pensionable age.

  • Sorry in advance if I ramble on.
    If we want to get more adults to take up cycle training then the single biggest change would be if more men did it. Why the proportion of men is so small has to be a central question.
    Whenever that question is asked one of the reasons given is the name Cycle Training itself. It sounds like something you do in school, something for people who cannot ride a bike. You can see people's faces drop when you mention it. Maybe male pride is one obstacle? The number of women I have trained who have talked about cycling with their boyfriend - the boyfriend being someone who would never consider training for himself. This relates to the question of marketing.
    Talking of names - I am not sure, David, what you mean about the 'Bikeability brand' having taken off. Though as an aside I would politely suggest that calling every bloody thing on earth a 'brand' is a problem in itself. Next we will be talking about the 'cycle training community'. I am guessing you mean it is recognised as a high quality standard among transport specialists. My guess is that outside that field it is hardly known at all. The name doesn't help - it's ugly, needs reading three times before you can even say it out loud and explains almost nothing of what it is about. Even just making it BikeAbility would be an improvement. I don't know a single trainer who likes it.
    I have lost count of the number of teachers, parents and trainees who have mention 'cycling proficiency' but could count those who have mentioned Bikeability on the fingers of one foot.
    Talking of compulsion - today I was training a couple of people from the Hackney Parks Service, both of who cycle already and neither of who would have chosen to come. Or even known that training was available. They were obliged to come along and as it happened they enjoyed it and made a lot of progress. Private individuals are unlikely ever to be obliged to take training but councils have that power to extend cycle training to their employees.
    As for schools, I have been pondering this a lot recently, mostly dolefully.
    Sometimes it seems we are like ghosts, we slip in and out of school unseen. Even the teachers out of whose classes we take children don't know what we do with them, what the children are learning or why it is of any value. There are teachers who try to punish children who have been naughty by keeping them out of CT lessons, as if it is an extension of play time.
    Which is not surprising in schools where there are one or two bikes in the rack and all you hear in the staff room is how dangerous cycling is and how they would never cycle on the road. Though they did do cycling proficiency as school - does that still exist?
    As mentioned above, there are schools with no 'cycling culture' (calling every bloody thing on earth a 'culture' etc). Four or five week courses are not going to change that. Having teachers cycle in to school, having bike clubs, involving parents, making cycle training an all year round activity will change that. I cannot see the current model making any further progress.
    I also think we should not be so nervous about cycle sport - children who ride a bike as a sport are much more likely to ride a bike as transport too. We should be linking these activities together.
    On a bad day I think that the off road part of a schools course is actually the bit that has done the most good - some children can now control their bikes better, can signal, look behind, understand how to make sure their bike is safe and have gained confidence and enjoyment from riding. What they are not going to do is ride on road, especially if they are the only person in their house with a bike. And always if they do not own a bike.
    Again, that can only change in a school if the school wants it to, if there are teachers and parents who cycle in and if cycling activity is not limited to four or five week courses.
    As regards schools should the question be how do we get more people to do cycle training? or should it be Would we be better off concentrating resources where they can make genuine, profound changes rather than spreading it more widely but actually changing nothing?

  • lots of good points Will dont fret.
    couple of thoughts:-
    *Some Local Authorities do not claim the Bikeability funding or only a small amount
    R.S depts need to have managers above them who prioritise the co-ordination of a team/delivery/continuation of their modern cycling training with as much importance placed on it as distributing 'first car' magazine bollocks like they do. Oh I mean, ensure an equal importance to it, the only way Luton and others with 30 trainers on staff do it is having a senior manager who cycles, because road safety depts still think its a niche activity- wake up.

    *Many school aren't interested or feel pressure of the school curriculum especially secondary schools
    going on from Wills point- and please use the 'aspiration' doc I sent you David, getting activity in right from the beginning year 1 up does this, the kids/ parents see their elders doing playground first then it progressively becomes the norm at year 5 up to do road stuff.

    *If a young person can't ride at all or doesn't have a bike they are excluded
    more fleets, more ability to run it example Hampshire firm, take as many as they need to schools for them, other ways, get fleets installed in storage at schools, but them give them to heads who are willing.

    *Adult training is hardly funded or promoted outside London and even in London take up could be more of there was less stigma attached to 'considering cycle training'
    toughest bit IMO, every single 'returning' rider Ive taught finishes elated, just like adult swimmers, its cultural, not sure here.
    good luck with it,
    #goesbacktoplay

  • Thanks Will and Jmf for those thoughts.
    Your exposure to cycle training is London based Will. The place where adult training and 'proper' cycling proficency for the 21st century has been the norm for years. Where helmets are often optional. Where there are schools with a cycling culture especially where you are based. Where years of focussed policy has born some small fruit.

    It is largely a dessert out there in the shires where car is king and queen. So easy convenient selfish and safe. And cycling is a grind. You hint that its time for something different, more drastic.

    I will try and convey some of this in the response to the inquiry

  • Possibly for some experienced adults the training needs to be pitched as akin to the Advanced School of Motoring. There are skills that people have that could be improved, their awareness/assessment/appreciation of risk can be increased. Will is correct about how few men do the training, but those who have done it always say how useful it was. Last year a trainee told me he was only doing it to qualify for a subsidised maintenance course, though a couple of days after the training he texted me to say how much he had benefited.

    I do believe that if any able bodied person taking a driving test had to complete cycle training it would help change some of the culture in the UK.

    Possibly the training should be pitched at people who ride as part of a club.

    When the training is delivered to schools there is no follow up, no days out on bikes organised or other activities to show to the kids the kinds of fun that can be had cycling.

    I am often amazed at the conversations I have in staffrooms at schools, teachers can not believe that I even cycle to the school to deliver the training. Places where the school contact is a cyclist tend to have a much more supportive attitude towards bikes. Places which are rabidly pro helmet tend to further reinforce the concern that cycling is a dangerous activity, and often their enforcement excludes some trainees.

  • Rant Alert
    I teach in the shires, and the whole scene here is dire. I do some work for the LA, some for CTC, and some for a our local campaign.
    They all insist on hi viz and helmets. No matter how bright the kids dress up I have to make them wear a stupid vest before they go out on the road.
    The schools sometimes actually prohibit cycling. We can only really get courses delivered in the school holidays.
    One of my co instructors just bellows at children, another refuses to do level 2 on roads that have moving cars on them (he is BC trained)
    I did a session for adults at the weekend for the cycle campaign. The results were shown on the campaign Facebook page and one member has ticked me off for riding in the primary position through a pinch point.
    I got turned down by a parent this week because her 14 year old son refused 1:1 training on the premise his friends might see him.
    I have spent a lot of time wondering how to make it better. The Bikability formula is dull, isn't any fun. If I let kids have a free for all in the playground as a way of assessing their ability my clients go apeshit, it has to be a regimented programme that I have come to hate delivering.
    So I look forward to some changes to the "system" to enable people to take part in something that actually makes them want to go cycling. What we currently do is not working.

  • I was at a school where cycling on school premises is forbidden except in a playground when bikeability was being taught. As such I was not allowed to ride my bike through the car park as it was a "health and safety issue", cars were of course allowed to drive on the same bit of road to get to the parking area.

  • Thanks Will and Jmf for those thoughts.
    Your exposure to cycle training is London based Will. The place where adult training and 'proper' cycling proficency for the 21st century has been the norm for years. Where helmets are often optional. Where there are schools with a cycling culture especially where you are based. Where years of focussed policy has born some small fruit.

    It is largely a dessert out there in the shires where car is king and queen. So easy convenient selfish and safe. And cycling is a grind. You hint that its time for something different, more drastic.

    I will try and convey some of this in the response to the inquiry

    Yes, I realise London is not representative of the country as a whole.
    Adroit's experiences echo other horror stories I have heard from instructors outside London. Though, Adroit, I do find young teenagers to be the least receptive trainees because almost always their parents have made them be there and it's not 'cool' at all so I have some sympathy with the lad.
    In schools in London I suppose I feel we are too often laying down a foundation upon which a house will not be built. We would be better off only digging up the land where we know we can finish the whole structure.
    Which might well mean a very radical change, abandoning the current system of short courses in lots of schools. At the very least I think most instructors feel that rather than trying to get more children through, councils should reduce the number on a course, perhaps down to 12, and recognise that quality of outcomes and the children enjoying the course more (as they always do when the numbers are reduced) is more important than quantity.
    I wonder, would it be impudent, or impolitic, to ask how many members of the all-party Parliamentary cycling group have had cycle training? Because perhaps they can find the answer to their question close to home?

  • If we want to get more adults to take up cycle training then the single biggest change would be if more men did it. Why the proportion of men is so small has to be a central question.

    Yep....

    A few thoughts

    In camden we call it "Urban Cycling Skills" for the adult training. Dunno if this helps. I can attest to the low number of men who take it up tho. Adult training is where we make a real difference I feel.

    Lots of schools couldn't store 30 bikes. Forget about 200! I think this is an issue to many heads. Bikes are just a hassle to them. the sheds collect scooters and dead bikes/debris and look ugly.

    Cycle training should be taught to every school child. Would this mean we would all be working for Serco/Capita etc? ;-P

  • Quick thought re. adult training: offer free 3rd party insurance for a year or two with every level 3 certificate.

  • I do believe that if any able bodied person taking a driving test had to complete cycle training it would help change some of the culture in the UK.

    ^^ this is a strong simple idea that should be pushed very hard to the Parliamentary Inquiry. Even politicians and the media can understand the idea that on road cycle training for teenagers will help them be safer, better drivers.
    It should be branded 'Bikeability' so that high schools will be queuing up to provide Bikeability 3 and expecting the primary schools to deliver kids with Bikeability 1 & 2

  • If we want to get more adults to take up cycle training then the single biggest change would be if more men did it. Why the proportion of men is so small has to be a central question.
    Whenever that question is asked one of the reasons given is the name Cycle Training itself. It sounds like something you do in school, something for people who cannot ride a bike. You can see people's faces drop when you mention it.** Maybe male pride is one obstacle**?

    I get alot of the "grow up and get a car" type of attitude and that snide dismisal of cycling from male collegues at work. The few that do cycle have surounded themselves with competition and techicalities - charts and gadgets - gym machines - personal bests - to justify an activity that they can't allow themselves to take seriously. There is this contradiction of "* its only a bike"(not serious) mentality and "*cycling is dangerous" (serious).

  • Again on young people.
    Many of the schools I work for evidence leadership on this.
    You mentioned swimming being a curriculum activity but many schools don't manage to co-ordinate it.
    Heads that are on side make decisions that affect the whole school population/parents and culture-and some of them have got.the guts to knock the school run on the head, because they know it sucks.how? For example banning drive in drive out drop offs outside for everyone except emergency vehicles and getting parents to park and walk, and at the same time installing bike and scooter racks.once this regime is established every future year of.intake dosent question it they just do it, heads create the culture in their school so if they have guts enough to allow proper bikeability delivery then everyone benefits.here's schools that have bike stores for 20%of the numbers at the school, this is excellent because again if you put something there now-people will use it, so what you say to national politicians needs linking to the reality of local affairs, ask any of the parents at my schools if cycling culture has given them huge benefits and they will tell you YES.

  • Jason Torrance and Phil Insall should be banging the Sustrans Bike It evidence on this.bikeability has been a cornerstone since 2006

  • Today I was talking to a chap from Denmark, cycling is formally taught as part of the curriculum there, he was amazed that most cyclists in the UK have little or no training.

    I have been to a few schools which have really strong transport policies, parents are discouraged from bringing kids to school in cars, loads of support for cycle training, pool bikes for children who don't own or can't bring a bike to school. They tend to have busy bike racks at the beginning and end of days, lots of cycling to and from school. This generally only happens when the head teacher and others are keen cyclists and are keen on pushing it to the parents and kids.

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How can we get more people to take up cycle training?

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