Childhood cycling in steep decline

Parents fear for offspring riding in traffic

At the start of Britain’s Bike to School Week (May 6 – 9) Cycling England has highlighted what it calls a ‘lost generation’ of cyclists as worried parents prevent their offspring from riding on the nation’s roads. 

The government-backed agency claims this parental fear about the dangers of traffic has given rise to what have been labelled ‘cul-de-sac kids’ – youngsters who never ride their bikes much further than the end of the road.

According to research conducted on behalf of the agency, the most common age at which present-day parents were able to cycle on the roads was 10 – but for their offspring that age has risen to 12. The research found that while one in three parents (35%) were allowed to cycle to school, only one in five (18%) allow their children to do so today - with just 4% of children actually cycling to school regularly.

Parents are no longer giving their children the run of local roads.  Over three quarters of parents (81%) ban their children from cycling independently, or limit their children’s cycling to their immediate road or neighbourhood streets.

The biggest reason offered by parents for not letting their child cycle was the issue of safety (36%) and this fear has resulted in a situation where, according to the survey, over a quarter of children (29%) are only allowed to cycle with adult supervision. 

Phillip Darnton, Chairman of Cycling England, said:  

“Concern about safety is understandable, but we need to remember that on-road accidents are in long term decline.  Every parent will want to ensure their children are kept safe, but they can’t live out their lives within the shadows of the cul-de-sac, never able to venture further away from home. This is particularly important, as we know that cycling to school, to friends, or just as a fun activity in its own right, can play a hugely positive role in the development of a child’s independence. I urge schools to come forward and offer Bikeability training as part of the push to get children cycling.” 

But is such training really the key to allaying the fear of parents or does the problem lie in the lack of proper cycling infrastructure coupled with the volume and speed of traffic in modern day Britain? Should Cycle England focus more on promoting traffic-calming measures, cycle paths, signage and driver education? Log in below and have your say.

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