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Cycling: Schools

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport in how many (a) primary and (b) secondary schools there is a cycling safety programme which has been approved by his Department. (282546)

The Department for Transport provides advice on safer cycling for children of all ages on its “Think” website.

The Department also funds cycle training in schools. Grants are available for local authorities and school sports partnerships for national standard cycle training promoted as Bikeability training in England. The decision on which schools take part is for individual local authority and school sports partnerships to determine. We do not therefore hold information about which schools have taken part to date, though we do plan to ask for it in the future as the delivery in schools expands. To date we have funded around 146,000 training places and have made grants of around £10 million available in 2009-10 to fund over 200,000 places.

Safety may also be covered in a school’s travel plan. Every school should have a travel plan by March 2010. We do not hold data on which plans include any safety aspect.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport how many local authorities were funding a cycling safety programme in schools on the latest date for which figures are available. (282558)

Most local authorities fund some form of cycle training in their schools usually through their Local Transport Plan funding. Not all of it is National Standard training (see reply to PQ 2588 08/09).

We have in recent years supplemented local authority spend and funded schools direct through their School sports Partnerships to increase the number of children who can receive national standard training as part of our target of delivering an additional 500,000 training places by 2012.

We announced cycle training grants amounting to £5.4 million earlier this year for 94 local authorities and our cycle demonstration towns. All bids for grant were awarded in full. This money will fund around 135,000 training places in addition to the estimated 100,000 being funded through our grants of £4 million to School Sports Partnerships. This builds on the 146,000 places we have already funded and goes a long way to meeting our 2012 target.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport on what core criteria his Department approves school cycling safety programmes; and what account is taken of the inclusion of training in safety in relation to heavy goods vehicles in the approval of such programmes. (282559)

The Department for Transport only provides grant for cycle training that meets the National Standard, promoted as Bikeability training in England. We have made over £9 million available to local authorities and school sports partnerships to deliver the national standard in 2009-10.

The National Standard replaces the old cycling proficiency and been designed and developed by leading experts in the road safety and cycling fields including RoSPA, Local Authority Road Safety Officers (LARSOA) and the Cyclists Touring Club. It is based on similar principles to lessons for motorcycles, allowing cyclists to assess risks and obstacles faced on the road. It involves a higher standard of cycle training, including an on-road element and is designed to give confidence and skills to deal with today’s road conditions. It can only be delivered by qualified national standard trainers.

The training consists of three levels:

Level 1: aimed at 7-9 year olds-off road teaching of basic cycling and balance skills;

Level 2: aimed at 10-11 years-on-road training building on the first level;

Level 3: aimed at older children/adults-includes tackling difficult road features (e.g. roundabouts) and the safe use of cycle facilities.

The National Standard deals with positioning and identifying the different hazards and road conditions cyclists may face on the road including being able to recognise the dangers that can be posed by large vehicles. Positioning and filtering is particularly important when sharing road space. Filtering allows a cyclist to move inside or outside of slow or stationary traffic but the choice to filter rests with the cyclist who needs to know how to judge when to filter. These skills are primarily taught at Level 3. Not filtering up the left of large vehicles at junctions is the main proviso cyclists are taught because the drivers of large vehicles have a blind spot on their nearside when turning left and the space there if occupied by a cyclist becomes closed.

A number of local authorities and other organisations give advice to HGV drivers about sharing road space with cyclists.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what recent discussions the Secretary of State has had with (a) the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and (b) the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families on the efficient funding and delivery of cycling safety programmes in schools. (282560)

None since the Secretary of State only recently took office. However both Department for Transport Ministers and officials here engage with Her Majesty’s Government colleagues on these issues as necessary. Meetings are held regularly with the Department of Children, Schools and Families on the part increases in cycling, particularly cycling to school can play in improving the health and fitness of children as part of the Government’s initiatives to reduce child obesity and increase physical activity.