Q. Why is Bikeability important?
Bikeability is Cycling England’s flagship cycle training programme designed to help guarantee a future for cycling in England, by giving thousands of children and young people the skills and confidence to ride on today’s roads.
There are numerous benefits associated with cycling including good health and longer life. Any risks associated with cycling for both children and adults are far outweighed by the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. Growing levels of inactivity directly increases the likelihood of illnesses such as coronary heart disease, which now kills more than more than 100,000 people in England every year.
Cycling for at least 30 minutes a day gives people a level of fitness equivalent to being 10 years younger. In terms of life-years gained and lost, the Government acknowledges that the health benefits of cycling far outweigh any risks involved – by a factor of 20:1 according to information provided by CTC, the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation.
The information accompanying each level of the award gives clear advice to both children and parents on what trips the child is trained to make following their training, parents are then encouraged to give the child as much practice as possible to keep their skills fresh and build experience. The daily journey to school is ideal for this.
Q. What are the levels?
There are three Bikeability levels and children are encouraged and inspired to achieve all three levels, recognising that there is always more to learn and to enjoy on a bike.
- Level 1 teaches basic skills and bicycle handling and is usually covered in a traffic free environment. Those completing Level 1 will be able to demonstrate the skills and understanding to be able to make a trip and undertake activities safely in a motor traffic free environment and as a pre-requisite to a road trip.
- Level 2 gives children the skills they need to cycle safely to school on minor roads. Level 2 is covered on quiet roads but with real traffic conditions. Those completing Level 2 will be able to demonstrate the skills and understanding to be able to make a trip safely to school, work or leisure on quiet roads.
- Level 3 covers more complicated traffic environments. Level 3 is covered on busy roads incorporating real traffic conditions and advanced road features. Those completing Level 3 will be able demonstrate the skills and understanding to be able to make a trip safely to school, work or leisure on busy roads and using complex junctions and road features.
A child will typically start Bikeability lessons once they have learnt to ride a bike, with 10-11 year olds progressing through to Level 2, and then Level 3 at secondary school (11-18 year olds).
Q. What do children receive when they achieve their Bikeability?
Children are awarded a shiny, luminous metal badge and certificate for each of the three levels – in red for Level 1, orange for Level 2 and green for Level 3.
Q. There are three levels to Bikeability – do children have to do any/all of them?
No, this is not on the national curriculum and is not compulsory. However, we expect the vast majority of families will want to take advantage of the training, and the Government is committed to giving young people the skills they need to lead active lives in the future.
The priority for government is to help children make the regular trips in their daily lives easily and healthily. Level 2 has been designed around shorter trips made by older primary school children, while Level 3 is aimed at secondary pupils and adults who are expanding the range of their activities and will want to travel more widely. The government’s current strategy is to focus its funding on Level 2, which has been designed to enable children to cycle to school on quieter roads.
Q. At what age can children start the training?
Children start learning the skills of Bikeability as soon as they ride a bike. Assessment for the Level 1 award is designed for children aged up to 9 when they start to cycle on off-road facilities or when supervised by adults, while Level 2 training is usually offered to children aged 10 – 11 years old (in school years 5 or 6), allowing them to put their new skills into action on the school trip and riding with parents.
Level 3 training is aimed at older children and adults who want to travel freely in a wide range of conditions and when they are likely to do longer journeys and seek independence.
Q. Is Bikeability available in my area / my school?
Since the official launch of Bikeability in 2007, there are now over 3,000 instructors and 200 schemes registered, which means that Bikeability is currently available in 80 per cent of the country.
Q. If Bikeability is not available in my area, when will it be?
Cycling England’s aim is that within five years no child should leave primary school without having the opportunity to do their Bikeability. We will work very hard towards achieving this aim, working with local authorities, schools and cycle trainers. If Bikeability is not yet available in your area or in your child’s school then this does not mean it will never be available.
The Bikeability website will have regular updates on the schools and local authorities who are participating but you can also contact your school or local authority to find out if they will participate and direct them this website where they can find information on how to register.
Q. How much does training cost?
This will vary between local authorities. There is already an extensive range of cycle training in England mainly funded by local authorities. Some do provide child cycle training entirely free, while others operate subsidised schemes — often to enable more children to be trained.
Department for Transport grants are being invested to get more children trained than ever before. This allows those local authorities already adopting Bikeability to increase their numbers of trainers, and others to get started. Special consideration will be given to children in deprived areas, and with the help and advice of the DCFS, certain schools will be able to offer training free. In addition, there are many independent providers willing to train adults as well as children who offer training schemes at competitive rates.
Q. My local authority/school makes a charge for Bikeability. Why should I have to pay for my child’s training / badge?
Cycling is an important life-skill and a rite of passage for most children, much like learning to swim. It not only provides additional skill and confidence, but can help to make your child healthier, fitter and happier. An award scheme is an important part of recognising the important achievement and milestone of a child learning to ride safely and well. In order that the award scheme is sustainable and long-lasting, a small charge is necessary to cover the costs of materials or in some cases to cover a proportion of the costs of the training itself. We believe that the small cost represents good value for money.
Q. Who recognises Bikeability?
Bikeability is the only Government approved and nationally recognised award for cycle training today.
To develop Bikeability, Cycling England established a steering group with membership of over 20 organisations across a wide range of disciplines, including the Local Authority Road Safety Officers Association (LARSOA), and the Local Authority Cycling Association (LACA).
Bikeability is supported by a range of Government departments including the Department for Transport (DfT) because cycling plays a key role within an integrated transport strategy; the Department of Health (DH) because cycling offers an easy, convenient form of exercise that can be built into our everyday lives; the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) because cycling to school is one of the easiest ways for our children to lead more active and healthier lives; the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) because cycling is as good for the environment; and by the Department of Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) because cycling is an ‘everyday sport’ that can be taken up by everyone, producing a fitter, healthier nation and the champions of the future.
Q. What is the National Cycle Training Standard?
The National Standard for Cycle Training underpins Bikeability which is the official award scheme for cyclists training to this National Standard. It sets out the skills needed for cyclists to be competent and confident using their bikes for all sorts of journeys. Building on the experience of cycling proficiency the National Cycle Training Standard has been developed by over 20 expert organisations in response to public demand for a modern, nationwide scheme that caters for today’s road conditions. The National Standard is a progressive scheme that moves through three levels to give parents the reassurance that their children have the necessary skills and confidence to cycle at each stage of their development and particularly to cycle to school.
Q. Will Bikeability cater for children with special needs?
Yes. Most children with special needs should be able to take part in Bikeability training with their peers. Instructors should make every effort to integrate any special needs requirements into their mainstream courses. Where practical problems arise, we would expect scheme organisers to try to find alternatives. A good practice guide on delivering inclusive cycle training is currently being developed on behalf of the Department for Transport.
Q. What if my child has missed out on this training in year 6, can they get it later?
It may be still be possible for your child to get trained. As children get older you may also want to consider Level 3 training which is more appropriate for older children and will teach them wider skills relevant to secondary school lifestyles.
Q. My child has lost their badge. Can I have another one?
This should not be a problem provided that a record of the training has been kept by the trainer who trained your child. In most cases there will be a charge to cover supplying additional badges. In all cases, parents should contact the training provider who did the original training as Bikeability will not be able to provide retrospective badge awards centrally.
Q. My child has done their Level 2, can they cycle to school?
We recommend children do their Bikeability levels 1 and 2 before cycling to school. Level 2 is designed to cover trips on quiet roads but with real traffic conditions. Children should work either with their parents, teacher or school travel planner to work out the safest route to school that uses mainly quiet roads with low levels of traffic. In some cases there may already be a safe route to their school. Parents might also consider initially accompanying their child to school.
Q. Can adults get the award?
Yes but the Bikeability awards have been designed with mainly children in mind and the funding being put behind these schemes is for developing young cyclists. However the National Standards for Cycle Training are designed for the journeys we make in life, regardless of age. Adults who wish to be trained should contact their local authority. Although some authorities offer it for free, a fee is likely to be needed.
Q. Will children need a special bike or other equipment?
Children do not need any special equipment to learn to cycle. They can use their own clothes and their own bicycle providing it has been checked by a qualified instructor to see whether it is road-worthy. Instructors can help set up and make minor running adjustments, but most instructors are not mechanics so if the cycle needs serious repair they will have to ask you to take it to a bike shop.
While no special clothing or accessories are required, a helmet is recommended. They may also recommend a high visibility tabard for poor conditions, especially when training on the road.
Q. My child’s head teacher won’t allow cycling to school, is there anything I can do?
Although most people recognise the importance of learning to ride safely and well as a life skill, like learning to cross a road or swim, in a minority of cases some head teachers are worried about the safety of the children in their care. Cycling England has found that in many cases it is possible for a parent / teacher who is prepared to ‘champion’ cycling for their school to change opinions and make a real difference.
Q. My school does not have adequate bike storage / cannot store their bike safely. What can I do?
The security of your child’s bicycle is important and Cycling England, the DfT and DCFS recognise the need for secure cycle storage at schools. In many cases grants are available from DCFS as part of your school’s travel plan (a plan which all schools must have considering the travel needs of all pupils). Contact your school or local authority to find out if any grant or subsidy is available.
Q. I/my family already cycle. What does Bikeability mean to us?
You will already realise the benefits in terms of independence and healthy, low cost mobility that cycling brings to your lives. While you do not have to take a test, and consider yourself a safe cyclist, you may still be able to improve your skills. Like most skills cycling does improve with training and does require practice.
Q. Is Bikeability available outside England?
Cycling is a devolved responsibility. The Bikeability award is only available in England at the moment. There are schemes and instructors who will deliver training to National Standard in Scotland and Wales.