Encouraging Children to Cycle to School
Cycling is one of the best forms of exercise, and as well as keeping you fit, it brings a whole host of other benefits too. Encouraging children from an early age to enjoy cycling can be a great strategy for them to have a lifelong interest in this activity. Cycling daily to school is one such way for children to get involved. Here are some tips to encourage your child to safely enjoy cycling to school.
What makes cycling so great?
The health benefits from cycling are wide-ranging, from reducing the risk of contracting various diseases to improving blood pressure, building strong bones and muscles and contributing to overall wellbeing.
Children who cycle to school have better concentration levels in class, feel more confident and independent, and have better levels of fitness.
As well as the health benefits, cycling is great because you aren’t reliant on using a car or other means of transport to get you from one place to another. This can reduce both travel costs and your carbon footprint. Children who cycle to school avoid getting caught up in traffic associated with the daily commute, arriving at school refreshed and raring to go.
Cycling with family and friends is also a fun, pleasurable experience and helps bond friendships.
Getting kids on their bikes
With so many benefits to be gained, it would seem like a no-brainer getting children to cycle to school. But the reality is somewhat different. With over 90% of children owning a bike, the actual number of children who cycle to school is only between 1-3%. So what is going wrong
One of the biggest barriers is parental fear factor. Quite rightly, parents worry about the safety of their children, especially cycling on busy, main roads. This alone can put a stop to allowing children to cycle to school, even though research has shown that half of school children would like to cycle.
Organisations such as the UK’s cycle charity Sustrans have been trying to allay parental fears, and encourage children to cycle to school through a number of exciting initiatives. Sustrans argues that accidents occurring from children cycling to school are very rare, with the lack of exercise from not cycling being more of an issue.
Most schools encourage cycling to school as part of the School Travel Plan, and offer a number of initiatives to get children cycling in a fun, informative and safe manner. As part of these plans, lots of schools offer cycle proficiency training, cycle storage facilities, as well as competitions and schemes to get children involved. Teaching road safety skills and wearing a helmet correctly are fast becoming part of the National Curriculum.
How can parents help?
By promoting cycling as fun and teaching children the benefits to be gained, it will encourage them to get on their bikes. Supported initiatives may also help quash parental fears about safety. But parents can also play a role in helping children to enjoy cycling. By going for little rides at the weekend as a family, making it a fun activity, such as trying to find different things along the route, or rewarding their behaviour for following road safety rules, children and parents can work together to make cycling a central part of their lives.