Safe cycling’s an uphill struggle at many schools

SAFETY training on roads for child cyclists varies greatly across Scotland, with little or none available in some parts, the Scottish Government’s ­cycling body has reported.

Children at Tinto Primary School in Biggar take part in Bikeability training. Picture: Contributed
Children at Tinto Primary School in Biggar take part in Bikeability training. Picture: Contributed

Bikeability courses for schoolchildren were launched three years ago by cycling ­legend Graeme Obree.

However, figures show that while some councils, such as Aberdeenshire, offered the training in three out of four of its primary schools in 2012-13, it was not available in Argyll and Bute, East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and the Western Isles.

The Cycling Scotland figures cover level two of the three-stage scheme, in which ten and 11-year-olds are taught how to cycle safely on roads.

They showed courses were available in just 2.9 per cent of Dundee’s primaries, 4.9 per cent of North Lanarkshire’s, and 5 per cent of Stirling’s.

At the other end of the scale, Aberdeenshire was at 76 per cent, Angus at 73.6 per cent, South Ayrshire 73.2 per cent, East Renfrewshire 69.6 per cent and Orkney 65 per cent.

Transport minister Keith Brown last year said encouraging pupils to cycle to school should be a priority. He said increasing commuting to school and work by bike was the best way to achieve the government target of increasing cycling from 1 to 2 per cent of trips to 10 per cent by 2020.

Campaigners said traffic speed was a deterrent. James McLoughlin, for road safety group Brake, said: “A major barrier to many children cycling to school is parents’ fear from fast traffic.

“As part of the ‘GO 20’ campaign, Brake calls for local authorities to implement 20mph speed limits to protect kids on foot or bike and encourage greater uptake.”

Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign, was optimistic despite the poor figures. Spokesman Ian Maxwell said: “While the overall level of Bikeability take up is disappointing, there is plenty of hope for the future. Some local authorities have made significant progress.”

Edinburgh has training available in 51.7 per cent of its primary schools and wants to extend this to all within ­ ­three years.

However, North Lanarkshire said on-road training was proving “challenging”. A spokesman said: “The course takes place over six weeks and requires two adults to six children, a very high commitment and huge personal responsibility for volunteers and teachers, who also have to be trained.”

Cycling Scotland said improved co-ordination of training had led to the proportion of primary schools with on-road training increasing from 29 per cent to 37.6 per cent since 2010.