Halfords has put its weight behind national cycle training programme Bikeability in a bid to get 25,000 more primary school kids cycling.
The chain is giving an estimated £1 million to the delivery of Bikeability training, and is also offering free bike checks for Bikeability pupils and their families and teachers who visit its stores across the country. Talks to offer refurbished trade-in bikes to poorer children are also underway.
Ahead of the announcement, research carried out by YouGov on behalf of Halfords found that 56 per cent of parents want cycling on the national curriculum so all kids can ride ‘competently, confidently and proficiently’ on the roads.
Bikeability Trust chief Paul Robison said: “Working with Halfords will give us the chance to extend our scope to reach thousands more children and help raise awareness of cycling as an essential life skill.”
Robison says the repair element also helps improve Bikeability delivery for everyone involved, as instructors making minor repairs to kids’ bikes can take up to a quarter of the initial training session and, even worse, kids cannot complete sessions because their bikes just aren’t safe to ride.
“I’m regularly told Bikeability instructors have to turn children away because they don’t have a bike in working condition,” says Robison. “You can imagine the consequences for the children who have to go back to classes from the playground, after they have been looking forward to it. They would be devastated, while all their other classmates are out cycling.
“Bikeability is that bit more effective still when you free up time for training; that could be up to 25 per cent more time spent riding bikes.”
While Halfords’ funding increases the children receiving training in the UK, there’s still a long way to go. Recent Bikeability figures show only 340,000 of a possible 500,000 Bikeability-age children in the UK have access to the training because of limited funds for places. The Department for Transport currently provides £40 million to the Bikeability Trust, which local authorities apply to local children.
Funds are distributed to schools in that area and delivered by Bikeability trained instructors, either via the school or a third-party provider. It costs around £40 per head to deliver Bikeability training to Level 2. The Bikeability Trust estimates bids for places currently exceed the available budget by £20 million. Training is delivered to primary school children in years five and six, at two levels. Bikeability Level 1 usually takes place in playgrounds or parks, away from traffic, and teaches kids the basic components of a bike, as well as stopping, starting, gear use, and manoeuvring. Level 2 takes kids out onto quiet roads and teaches them to negotiate light traffic, as well as different hazards on the streets.
Of kids who take Bikeability training, 50 per cent cycle more afterwards than they did before, often in play, or to the shops, but cycling to school remains low, despite training – likely a product of local road conditions.
Looking to the future, Robison would like to address the situation where some families don’t have access to a bike at all – a particular issue in households where money is tighter, and among pupils from schools in poorer areas. This is something that could become part of an ongoing Halfords deal, Robison says. He notes it may come in the form of a trade-in scheme for kids’ bikes, with bikes traded in refurbished and made available for children from families of low incomes. While Halfords isn’t committed to the idea yet, it is something he is exploring. “Bikeability schemes tell us it’s quite common in some areas for kids not to have bikes at all,” he says.
While schools can use Bikeability money for student ‘pool bikes’, kids with their own bikes – following their training – can keep riding long after classes are over.
Over the summer, Halfords also offered Bikeability students ten per cent discounts on new bikes ahead of the new term. Halfords’ funding will help train those 25,000 kids during the upcoming Autumn term, and children, their families and teachers will need to provide Bikeability consent letters to prove their eligibility for free bike checks in store.
Halfords chief executive Graham Stapleton says: “By helping more children cycle more safely and more often, families will be inspired to get out on their bikes.”
Cycling Minister Jesse Norman adds: “The benefits of cycling and walking are enormous. For people, it means cheaper travel and better health. For businesses, it means increased productivity and increased footfall in shops, and for society as a whole, it means lower congestion, better air quality and vibrant, attractive places.
“Halfords’ investment in cycle training for children is a great boost for the delivery of the Bikeability programme. This investment in the future generation of cyclists will allow us to reach and train more children than ever before.”