Pupil loses fight to cycle to school

Authorities say road is too dangerous

A Portsmouth youngster has lost his year-long campaign to be allowed to cycle to school. Sam O'Shea, 11, has been told that the road outside St Paul's CatholicPrimary School is not safe enough to use.

Authorities are sticking by their October 2008 decision – despite the fact that Sam and his family persuaded the city council to bring forward a planned redesign of the road layout. They also arranged for a professional risk assessment, which found that the street was safe for children to cycle on.

The headteacher has offered to meet UK cyclists' organisation CTC to discuss the situation – but not until the beginning of next term, when Sam will have moved on to secondary school.

“The school said I needed to do cycle training, which I’ve done," said Sam. "Then they said the road layout was dangerous, so we got the council to change it, but they still said it was unsafe. I just want to ride my bike to school. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good fun.”

School authorities continue to insist that cycling is too dangerous, and say Sam cannot bring his bike onto the premises. They have not taken up an offer from the council to provide cycle parking.

CTC campaigns co-ordinator Debra Rolfe said: “At every turn the school has tried to stop Sam from cycling. They have delayed meetings and avoided CTC’s offers of help. It appears they are simply waiting for Sam to leave so they do not have to deal with his request.

"It is unbelievable that a school would actively discourage children from taking regular exercise when obesity is such a problem. Research shows schoolchildren who cycle are healthier and happier than those who don’t – it makes sense for schools to promote cycling, not ban it.”

BikeRadar contacted the school and obtained the following statement from Janet Lynch, chair of governors: "The governors of St Paul's Primary School recognise the positive benefits of cycling but do not encourage pupils to bring cycles to school for several reasons including safety, storage and access. The present situation is not ideal but the safety of pupils must come first. The situation is and will be constantly monitored."

While UK schools cannot ban pupils from cycling they can ban them from bringing bikes onto their property, as in this case. Some 49 percent of secondary school pupils say they want to cycle to school but only two percent of secondary school pupils and one percent of primary school pupils actually do.

Ms Rolfe wants to hear from anyone who has encountered resistance to cycling to school.

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