Bikeability, the official government cycling proficiency scheme, could be set to really take off, a year and a half after its official launch.
The so-called national scheme has so far been tentatively rolled out – see BikeRadar.com’s findings in this article – but Ruth Kelly’s recent announcement of £110 million extra cycling investment (of a total of £140 million) has the stated aim of providing cycle training for half a million children by 2012 and holds the potential to create an army of cycle instructors.
Bikeability, billed as the ‘cycling proficiency test for the 21st century’, began as a trial project in 2006, a joint effort from the Cyclists Touring Club and Cycling England. It is based around National Training Standards of three levels – basic control, getting out on quiet roads and full-on riding in all types of road conditions.
There have been undoubted success stories.
Cycling Solutions are based in Liverpool and in their first year of operation trained 6,000 kids in just 9 months. According to the company's training manager Steve Fisher, Cycling Solutions is, "on target for training around 11,000 during the year ending March 2008. The numbers will increase next year."
Colin Langdon was instrumental in the formation of the company and formerly had experience with the CTC’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund.
They are actively looking for people interested in becoming accredited trainers. BikeRadar.com’s detailed trawl through the Bikeability website revealed Merseyside as a real training hotspot, with all local councils in the area able to offer full Bikeability training from Cycling Solutions.
Lone cyclists can get accreditation as Bikeability instructors too though. Wendy Creed established Road Safety and Cycle Training in the Newquay area of Cornwall and has been involved in the Bikeability scheme from its formative stages. Her unbridled enthusiasm comes over when talking to BikeRadar.com.
"The whole training process is spot on," she said. "I had to pay for my training but there are bursaries now which should open the process up to more people. I’ve been working with classes at Newquay Juniors for 18 months on level 1 and level 2 courses and have found it’s just what the kids both need and enjoy."
Some Bikeability providers have been a bit more critical of the process. Iain Taylor of Gremlins, Oldham-based Bikeability providers, commented: "Two main problems are the amount of paperwork necessary – parental consents, risk assessments and the like – and having to go out and persuade the schools a couple of months in advance to make time for cycling in their busy schedules."
Our analysis of the Bikeability website showed almost half of the local highway authority areas detailed were still not accredited.
The £140 million should more than help fill these gaps. CTC’s Senior Cycle Training Officer, Greg Woodford, confirmed this toBikeradar.com.
"I can’t see any reason why the target of training half a million kids by 2012 shouldn’t be achieved using this new money and the huge enthusiasm for the scheme within the cycling community," he said. "Although the millions haven’t yet been allocated, the main thrust will be to get level 2 training available en masse, to all kids want it right across England. Personally I’d then like to see more resources go into Level 3 funding (currently not directly subsidised by government funds) and if Bikeability could get onto the National Curriculum that would also help hugely."
There are still a few training bursaries available for those wishing to become accredited instructors and more bursary funding should be available in the 2008-2009 school year. See the CTC website for more detail.