Cycle training lottery across Scotland sees pupils lose out

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A huge variation in Scottish primary schools teaching children to cycle safely on roads has been uncovered in new figures for the official Bikeability scheme.

While all schools in four council areas offered such vital training in the year to March, just 8 per cent of schools in some areas participated, and three local authorities did not take part at all.

Primary school scheme take-up ranges from 8 to 100 per cent.

Primary school scheme take-up ranges from 8 to 100 per cent.

The average rate across Scotland has reached a record high of 47 per cent – up ten points in six years – but a majority of schools are being left out of the scheme.

Cycle campaigners said the latest results proved all types of councils could reach high Bikeability rates, which should be a spur to others to catch up.

These include Falkirk, where only 8 per cent of schools took part, down from 10 per cent in 2012-13.

Other poor performers included Borders, where the rate fell from 43 to 8.3 per cent over that period.

In North Lanarkshire it was 10.9 per cent, albeit more than twice the rate of six years ago.

Councils offering on-road training in all schools were Western Isles (where none did six years ago), Clackmannanshire (up from 37 per cent), East Renfrewshire (70 per cent) and Shetland (45 per cent).

Other big improvers included Dundee, from 3 to nearly 91 per cent, and Stirling, from 5 to almost 66 per cent.

Bikeability is the national training programme for seven to 11-year-olds, provided free to schools and funded by the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency through development body Cycling Scotland.

The group said two thirds of children were more confident cycling after doing the training, and four in five parents were happier about letting them cycle.

Ian Maxwell, of Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, said: “It is a very mixed picture, but also indicates what is possible across a range of local authorities.

“The fact there has been significant progress in some councils is really good news and indicates the others have the potential to improve.

“There are enough places which have shown it is possible, which will hopefully motivate the others to catch up.”

Lee Craigie, active nation commissioner for Scotland, said: “Any school that hasn’t taken part should. We owe it to our children to unlock the potential being a confident cyclist offers.”

Fiona Black, acting principal teacher at Toronto Primary School in Livingston, which takes part in the scheme, said: “It was such an easy process and the children have loved it.

“We would love to offer this each year so all our primary sixes are equipped with the right knowledge and confidence to be safer cyclists.”

David Collins, Cycling Scotland Bikeability development officer, said: “We’ve done all we can to make the process of accessing the free training for instructors and grant funding as easy as possible. Even bikes can be supplied.”

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “We recognise the need to connect further with schools and will soon pilot a Bikeability project.

“We have also appointed an iBike officer in partnership with Sustrans who will work with schools to increase free cycling training for pupils.”

A North Lanarkshire Council spokesperson said: “The figures published by Cycling Scotland are only for the Bikeability 2 training programme, however in North Lanarkshire we offer both Bikeability 1 and 2 in primary schools and, in 2018-19, had a 38.7 per cent uptake for Bikeability 1 and 11.8 per cent for Bikeability 2. This equates to over 1,050 pupils from 60 schools.

“Cycle training is an important part of the council’s road safety programme, and Bikeability is promoted and supported in all primary schools with an annual training day held for teachers and volunteers.”