Tens of thousands of school children in England are to get special cycling training
The Government has announced £3million funding to teach 80,000 youngsters how to ride their bikes safely on the roads over the next year.
The training budget will come out of the £140million pro-cycling package announced by ministers earlier this year, which aims to get half a million 10 and 11 year olds cycling training by 2012.
Transport Minister Rosie Winterton said: "Encouraging cycling also encourages healthier lifestyles. Considering obesity now affects around one quarter of adults and 1 in 10 children, encouraging people to take exercise has never been more important.
"At the same time congestion is getting worse. If parents can be satisified their children can cycle safely they are more likely to let them use their bikes. And getting children cycling could even encourage their parents to dust off their own bikes."
The training harks back to the old Cycling Proficiency Test, which used to be given to every British school child.
The new programme, Bikeability, is part of a renewed effort to get more children on their bikes. The brainchild of Olympic cyclist Rob Hayles, it gives youngsters lessons in cycling technique and traffic safety.
Each child is required to pass three levels. Level one includes demonstration of safety in a traffic-free environment. Level two is on quiet roads with light traffic. Level three is on busy roads. Once the course is completed, each child is awarded a badge, booklet and certificate. Parents are kept informed of their youngster's progress by letter.
The scheme was trialled last year in Derby, Lanchester, Aylesbury, Darlington, Brighton and Exeter.
The training is also complemented by Cycling England's funding of links to school from the National Cycle Network and increases in secure cycle parking at schools.
Philip Darnton Chairman of Cycling England, said: "This is wonderful news for cycling. We are making real progress with the delivery of Bikeability training. We are now well on course to exceed the 100,000 additional training places promised to the then Secretary of State when Cycling England was set up in 2005 and the extra 500,000 training places the Department wants by 2012."