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Offer adults free training to help shift to cycling, say experts

Training will help returning cyclists navigate the roads with patchy cycling infrastructure

Experts are calling for free cycle training to be made available for adults to help people avoid public transport as businesses reopen this week.

The head of the Bikeability Trust and Labour's Rebecca Long-Bailey are among those calling for support to help give people the confidence and skills to ride with traffic as emergency cycle lanes are gradually rolled out over the coming weeks and months.

In February the government announced Bikeability, the name for cycle training delivered in schools, will be available for all pupils in England, but funding won’t be allocated until later in the year, likely after a forthcoming spending review. While free cycle training is available for adults in London boroughs, funded by Transport for London, provision is patchy outside the capital.

Paul Robison, Bikeability Trust CEO, which manages Bikeability funds delivered to councils around the UK, says he has been “pushing quite strongly” for Government to incorporate adult cycle training into Bikeability to help people cycle more during COVID-19 restrictions on public transport, and estimates it would cost £1.5m-£2m per year to do so. 

Robison says: “For most journeys we are going to have to ride on normal roads for the foreseeable future, that’s why cycle training is important, to get you to those protected cycle lanes.”

At an online event organised by the IWGB union last week Labour Party politician, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said: “Many children and parents will not have bikes at all, many children won't even be able to ride a bicycle will never have been near a bike since they were a child.

“Some people are going to need more intensive training and support than others” she says, including people in disadvantaged communities."

“If the government is serious about this then it really does need serious investment and support for those children and their families.”

With Bikeability funding Long-Bailey says “the devil is definitely going to be in the detail”.

Brian Deegan, technical advisor for Chris Boardman in Manchester, sees a “mass rollout of cycle training” as key, adding most pop-up routes will not immediately tackle junctions, where there is the greatest collision risk.

“Having that confidence of where to put yourself and how to interact with cars is a skill that everybody needs,” said Deegan. “Lots of stuff we’re building is going to be transformational, but it's probably going to come in in different phases.”

“It's going to take six to 12 months to really get those final routes going.”

Deegan says employers can help provide staff training – and avoid a “big rise in collisions”.

“We can't just say, off you go, and head down the A56 there. We might need to give people a little bit of help if they need it.”

Mike McSherry, Chair of the Cycle Instructors Branch of the IWGB union, wants to see cycle training made available to adults “as soon as possible.” Bikeability is delivered for councils by organisations like Cycle Confident– and the same trainers could link with councils to train adults, according to McSherry.

“We aren’t saying you can’t ride a bike unless you have cycle training, but some people need help to access cycling,” he says. “Cycling is now central to our economic life so by not helping people to cycle you’re denying them the opportunity to participate in society.”

“I think you’d be surprised at the number of adults in this country who can’t ride a bike,” he said.

Cycling UK says it has seen a 166% increase in traffic to its website pages on how to learn to ride a bike since lockdown measures were introduced. Free cycle training has been suspended in London at present, but is expected to be reinstated in the coming weeks. Private one-on-one sessions can still be delivered with COVID-19 restrictions as they are. 

Paul Robison says going forward cycle training could be linked to the government voucher scheme for bike repairs. “When people have their bike serviced ask them ‘how confident do you feel riding it?’ and if they say 'not very', you can offer cycle training – it’s joining the dots,” says Robison.

A Government spokesperson said: “We remain committed to working to offer Bikeability training to all children and will set out further plans for delivering this shortly."

The London Borough of Newham is among councils helping people access bikes, via a low-cost "try before you bike" hire-purchase scheme.

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13 comments

Avatar
Tribble | 3 years ago
0 likes

My local council offered free cycle training for years. At the same time they invested almost nothing in safe cycle infrastructure. Therefore cycling rates remain stubbornly slow.

Training is good for people who have never cycled before, or not cycled for a long time, and want to start.

Training is no substitute for safe space to ride. If you give people safe places to ride, on routes they want to ride, they will gain the confidence themselves.

Avatar
Velovoyeur | 3 years ago
6 likes

Providing training is seen as a way to give people the skills and confidence to be able to safely ride their bikes for urban journeys which is a sensible theory. It needs to continue. However, the attitude of motorists is going to remain unaltered - there is a wider area of education needed to address this.

The best thing to do to increase people's confidence to ride their bike on the roads is to implement the presumed liability law as advocated by Chris Boardman. This will make riding a bike more appealing and will change drivers attitudes in one go but, because it applies to the cyclist verses pedestrian debate, will also place responsibility on cyclists and lessen the hoodlum element who ride on pavements etc. This, coupled with proper infrastructure, will cause a major shift in cycle use.

Avatar
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to Velovoyeur | 3 years ago
5 likes

I agree that a change in liability and better infrastructure are essential. It's also necessary to acknowledge that the majority of road users are not aggressive around cyclist. The important contribution Cycle Training offers (other than riding confidently) is to teach cyclists how to ride with intention and clarity i.e signaling, looking over the shoulder, primary position. This helps other road users in understanding their intention. 

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Rick_Rude | 3 years ago
0 likes

Those from disadvantaged backgrounds always seem to have pretty good bike skills given some of the wheelies I've seen. It's the Phoebe types with basket on the bike that can't ride in a straight line.

Avatar
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 years ago
3 likes

The adult cycle training has also stopped in London as TfL have withdrawn the funding. There is currently no Cycle Training in London, Which is a real pity as the opportunity to deliver modal shift is quickly disappearing. I am a big supporter of Bikeability for adults as I have experience in seeing the difference it makes. It empowers cyclists, gives them confidence and teaches technique to ride safely and responsibly. There are two things that prevent more cycling in London. The first is trepidation or 'fear'. The second is bike storage - where do I keep my bike? 

Avatar
David9694 | 3 years ago
2 likes

“I think you’d be surprised at the number of adults in this country who can’t ride a bike,” he said. "Quite a few of them have driving licences, though."

ok, so that's part-quote and part my fabrication. But perhaps you should have to do Bikeability (and pass) before you can do your driving test? Like not run before you can walk? 

when a CUK figure popped-up recently in the Bournemouth Daily Echo saying there needed to be this sort of thing - well, you can guess what the wretched comments section was alive with, naturally. 

Avatar
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to David9694 | 3 years ago
1 like

Just a quick point - Bikeability is not a 'pass' or 'fail'.  

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hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
6 likes

Nice idea, but they should put effort into educating drivers about how to behave around cyclists and vulnerable road users.

Avatar
eburtthebike | 3 years ago
2 likes

Given all the comments here and elsewhere about new and returning cyclists being a danger to themselves and others, this has to be a good idea. Like the lockdown temporary infrastructure, it should have started a couple of months ago, but better late than never.

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HarrogateSpa | 3 years ago
5 likes

Training is the icing on the cake, but not a substitute for the cake.

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mdavidford replied to HarrogateSpa | 3 years ago
6 likes

So the government should offer free cake to get people to cycle? That's a policy I could get behind.

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David9694 replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago
1 like

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FlyingPenguin replied to David9694 | 3 years ago
5 likes
David9694 wrote:

Dear Road.cc 

my hydraulic brakes are a little spongey. Any advice?

Spread some jam on one, buttercream on the other, place together with the fillings in the middle and dust with icing sugar.  Then you have a nice Victoria Sponge.

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