Government pledges to fund cycle training for every child in England

A Government statement issued this morning has pledged funding for cycle training for every child in England.

Taking BikeAbility’s reach from 50% to 100% of children in England was one of the Conservative Government’s pledges made during the Brompton Hustings, which took place prior to the election at the Greenford manufacturing plant.

Chris Heaton-Harris, Cycling and Walking Minister, said today: “Cycling is a fun and enjoyable way for children to get to school, the shops or see their friends. It is also environmentally friendly and has a positive impact on their mental and physical health.

“Extending Bikeability cycle training will inspire the next generation to take to the roads as confident and proficient cyclists and will play an important role in helping us meet our net-zero emission targets.”

The announcement is flanked by a segment that suggests £2.4 billion will have been spent on cycling and walking between 2016 to 2021, but no further information has been provided on this claim as yet. CI.N has asked for more information on this existing and projected spend, but it is likely a reference to this spend, of which only a fraction is ring fenced for cycling and walking specifically.

Further into the release, the Government has announced an investment of £22 million to be spent on national schemes over the next year.

£20 million will go to extend the Access Fund which helps local authorities support more people to cycle and walk; £1 million will go towards the Big Bike Revival – a grass roots project encouraging more than 40,000 people to take up cycling who wouldn’t normally consider it; and £1 million will be invested in the Walk to School outreach programmes offered by the Government’s partners Cycling UK and Living Streets.

The ambition of the access fund seeks to help employers provide cycle training at the workplace, as well as advice on making a change to active travel forms.

Flagged in the release is a £2.5 million pot that both Blackpool and Sheffield County Council will each receive to fund ‘Walk To’ programmes for a further year. Devon County Council is said to be gaining £500,000 to support a “Walking and Cycling to Prosperity Initiative”.

During the Cycling Hustings Chris Heaton Harris Appeared to pledge just £70 million per year for cycling initiatives, which at the time drew heavy criticism from Cycling UK, among others. It appeared at the time that the Government’s pledge would represent a funding cut for cycling infrastructure, something that is deemed the foremost barrier to new uptake for cycling.

Today, Cycling UK’s Chief Executive Paul Tuohy said: “Projects like Bikeability and the Big Bike Revival provide the skills for safer cycling to some of the people who need it the most.

“It’s fantastic to see the Government continue to back programmes that deliver and are helping thousands of people every year on their cycling journeys.”

Chris Boardman, Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “Giving all children the opportunity to learn to ride a bike is absolutely the right thing to do and you’d be hard pressed to find a parent who would disagree. However if you ask parents whether they feel comfortable letting their children cycle on the streets of our towns and cities today, you’d struggle to find many who would readily raise their hands.

“Without providing children with safe places to continue this habit into their everyday lives, this investment can’t be truly maximised. It’s like training an athlete up for the Olympics and then not putting them on their flight to compete.

“Our world-class plans for cycling and walking in Greater Manchester will enable this safe and accessible network across all ten districts, and kick start the long term culture change that’s happened in places like Copenhagen, where more than 50% of children now ride to school. All we need is for the Government to back us with the funds required to deliver our plan and revolutionise travel for a whole city-region and ultimately, for a nation.”