A Wandsworth councillor has requested an urgent meeting with the principal of a school in the south London borough after it emerged that pupils are banned from cycling there, with bicycles featuring on a list of prohibited items that includes drugs, knives and pornographic material.
Twitter user Aigars Gedroics, the parent of a student at Ashcroft Technology Academy in Wandsworth – whose board of trustees is chaired by the former Conservative Party treasurer Lord Ashcroft – revealed the ban in reply to a tweet yesterday evening.
Our secondary school in Wandsworth has banned bicycles... 🤬
— Aigars Gedroics (@gedrox) September 9, 2021
He subsequently tweeted a screengrab from the Academy Rules in which “Bicycles” appears in a list of prohibited items that are “not allowed in student’s possession while in uniform or whilst under the control of the academy.”
"Bicycles are not
permitted because the Executive Board considers the traffic to be too heavy and the roads around the Academy too
difficult to negotiate for young people and therefore pose an increased risk to health and safety."
Prohibited items: 🚬🔫⚔💊🔞📵🚴♂️ pic.twitter.com/bBiFjYDgd8
— Aigars Gedroics (@gedrox) September 10, 2021
The rules also require that uniform is to be worn at all times, including while travelling to and from the academy, and provide an explanation of why bicycles are banned, stating: “Bicycles are not permitted because the Executive Board considers the traffic to be too heavy and the roads around the Academy too difficult to negotiate for young people and therefore pose an increased risk to health and safety.”
The school, in East Putney, lies close to the junction of the A205 South Circular Road and the A3 West Hill, with its main entrance located just off that road,
But Mr Gedroics highlighted on Twitter that West Hill does have cycle lanes running in both directions, and it is worth noting that the Academy Rules also require students to observe the Highway Code while travelling to and from the site.
That's the road to the school. Bicycle lanes in both ways. In the mornings there's congestion and car speed is slow.
Also I'm not sure what they exactly mean by roads being "difficult to negotiate for young people". The kid already walks to the school by themselves. pic.twitter.com/Sj9gnLQOfE
— Aigars Gedroics (@gedrox) September 10, 2021
Councillor Jo Rigby, active travel and transport speaker for the Labour group on the Conservative-controlled Wandsworth Council, said that she has written to the borough, the academy and London’s cycling and walking commissioner Will Norman to request an urgent meeting about the situation.
She told road.cc: “We cannot have bicycles on the same prohibited list as knives, porn and ketamine. It is the goal of the London Mayor and Wandsworth Borough Council that our children should be able to walk and cycle to school safely.
“I have requested a meeting between Mr Douglas Mitchell, Ashcroft's principal, Wandsworth Council transport officers, TfL and both London and Wandsworth Cycling Campaign representatives to work together to find solutions to enabling safe cycling.”
She also said that the ban had been verified to her “by a former pupil, now aged 21, who states that he cycled to the school but locked his bike some streets away so as not to be seen by leadership.”
Councillor Rigby added: “It's a tech specialist secondary school. Cars are allowed in to inspire engineers but not bikes,” highlighting a tweet from the academy regarding a visit from McLaren Automotive.
Future engineers from our Sixth Form and GCSE classes were given a fascinating talk and car demonstration by McLaren Automotive today. pic.twitter.com/bBnqFomsW8
— Ashcroft Academy (@AshcroftAcademy) July 14, 2021
As Twitter user Always Last pointed out, local education authorities in England have a statutory duty to promote sustainable travel to and from schools.
Re schools and sustainable travel, as His Lordship is on a break, I will point out that LEAs have a legal duty
to promote sustainable travel to school. https://t.co/pqH94IDxfs
Assuming WBC has done this, the school will have been consulted.
Providing opps for cllr Q's and FOIs pic.twitter.com/uImtuYkeW0
— always last (@lastnotlost) September 10, 2021
While the latest version of the Academy Rules is dated 2016/17, the effective ban on students cycling goes back more than a decade earlier, with Councillor Rigby tracking down a report regarding redevelopment of the school site, which at the time went by the name ADT College, laid before Wandsworth Council’s Planning Applications Committee in September 2005.
The report made reference to “30 cycle parking spaces (for staff and post-16 students) separated from the existing vehicular entrance to the north on Portinscale Road which will be retained,”
The report goes on to state:
The applicant in support of the application has indicated that the landscape design provides an area for 100 cycle stands, of which 30 will be provided during the proposed works. The school has a “no cycling” policy for pupils for health & safety reasons. Their students travel from a wide area and the transport surveys demonstrated that a significant majority use public transport. There are members of staff who cycle and the school has made a commitment to allowing post-16 students to cycle, but the school is not currently willing to allow the 11-16 year olds to cycle.
But the report also noted that in response to a consultation on the application, Transport for London had said it was
Surprised that no provision is made for students to cycle to college, recommends this be reviewed considering the proximity to London Cycle Network on West Hill including benefits associated with cycling. Additional cycling facilities should be provided to aid safe passage of students.
The position regarding cycle parking of the engineering services department of the London Borough of Wandsworth – which has been under Conservative control since 1978 – was also summarised in the report:
Cycle parking provision is restricted to staff with only 11 spaces proposed. Pupils should be encouraged to cycle to the College, following suitable training which can be arranged through the Council. Secure cycle parking provision should be increased to `146 spaces to allow for this.
Following publication of our article, we were contacted by the council, who pointed out that due to its academy status, the school made decisions independently of the council, and that the main routes to reach the school are on roads controlled by TfL, rather than the borough. In a statement, a council spokesman said:
Wandsworth Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and since then has been working with residents, businesses and institutions such as schools in implementing measures that are beneficial to the environment across the borough.
For example we run cycle training sessions within schools to encourage active travel and our school streets scheme has been a very positive measure, where we have closed roads to traffic at the start and end of the school day to create pedestrian and cycle only zones. We have a large number of our schools now involved in this scheme – you can read more about it here.
In terms of the decision taken by Ashcroft Technology Academy, it is worth pointing out that because of its academy status Ashcroft’s decisions are made independently of Wandsworth Council. But more importantly the two main roads used to get to the school – Upper Richmond Road and West Hill – are owned and run by Tfl and so any changes to the infrastructure of these roads are down to them.
In the meantime Wandsworth Council will speak to the school to see if it can help at all on this matter and continue to implement our policies, where we have jurisdiction and control, to meet our climate change commitments.
Meanwhile, across London in Dagenham …
— Eastbrook Primary (@EastbrookPri) September 9, 2021
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.