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22nd January 2019
Whatever happened to Cycling Proficiency

Paul Robison (CEO – Bikeability Trust) publishes his January blog:

My rather grand job title nowadays is CEO of the Bikeability Trust, but this hides more than a decade of hopes and dreams, plans and schemes, which have led to the creation of first Bikeability and then the Trust. In this first blog post from the CEO’s saddle, I thought it might be interesting to look back (carefully, over the shoulder, while keeping a steady two hands on the handlebars) at the history of Bikeability.

We need to go back further than you might imagine – to the 1970s. American engineer John Forester (now aged 89 and still going strong – that’s the benefit of lifelong cycling) was living in California and was one of the early cycling activists. In 1971 he received a traffic ticket for riding his bike on the road instead of on the sidewalk (pavement) and he challenged the ticket so effectively that the law was changed to allow bikes on the road. He conducted research into cycling safety and was the first to write down what many had already realised: in the absence of good cycling infrastructure (i.e. almost everywhere) it was safest to ride like other vehicles. British cycling enthusiast John Franklin picked up this research, adapted it for the UK and in 1988 published it as the cycling skills manual “Cyclecraft” – which is still published today by the Stationery Office.

In the background, the Cycling Proficiency Test was developed, with the first test being given to seven children in October 1947. The National Cycling Proficiency Scheme was introduced by the UK government in 1958, with statutory responsibility for road safety – including the provision of child cyclist training – being given to local authorities in 1974. The more cynical might hear a death knell at this point, and indeed the NCPS soon declined and fell apart – partly because there was no standard underpinning it. The inevitable outcome was a generation of people who had not learned to ride their bikes safely on the roads in the UK, and therefore did not pass the skills on to their children. The future looked petrol-driven…
Thankfully, in 2005 along came Cycling England, funded by the Department for Transport, and it quickly launched various initiatives such as cycling demonstration towns, a cycle journey planner – and Bikeability, in 2006. The scheme had the tagline “Cycling Proficiency for the 21st Century”. The aim was to professionalise the provision of cycle training to children (instructors would be required to be able to ride bikes themselves – a revolutionary concept at the time!), and to create a progression from Level 1 to Level 3, building on some aspects of Franklin-inspired existing training. As for structure, the plan was to create a national standard, to brand it, and to pay instructors via registered Bikeability Schemes.

All went well until April 2011, when Cycling England perished on “the bonfire of the quangos”. Much of its work was scrapped but the incoming government was persuaded to continue to fund Bikeability because it was established, popular, successful and relatively cheap (i.e. politicians could look good for very little financial outlay). The DfT put the management and administration of Bikeability out to tender and two former Cycling England employees – modesty forbids – created a company to put in a bid, and were successful. The idea of creating a Bikeability Trust – with charitable status – to bid for the support contract was raised, but the option was abandoned when the DfT pointed out that a contract could not be awarded to an entity with no financial track record. But the seed had been sown…

Next month I will explain how the Bikeability Trust eventually saw the light of day, and some of our plans for the future.

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29th June 2018
Halfords announced as major sponsor of Bikeability – what does this mean for the industry?

The Bikeability Trust is delighted to have secured a deal with Halfords, to sponsor Bikeability for an initial 3 years. This was announced earlier today by Transport Minister Jesse Norman at the annual Cycle City Active conference in Manchester. Press release here.

Halfords has 460 stores nationwide and 90% of the population live within 20 minutes of a store – they have the capacity to market Bikeability widely, as well as offer promotions and training to a large number of people.

The Bikeability Trust will be appointing a Partnership Manager to develop and deliver a promotion and communications strategy with Halfords and their own communications team. We anticipate that this PR activity will significantly raise the profile of Bikeability at a national level amongst the general public (through media coverage and promotion via Halfords stores/on-line and other forms of marketing) as well as with key audiences for Bikeability including schools, teachers, parents and potential trainees through targeted promotions and information campaigns. In turn this will hopefully encourage more people (especially hard-to-reach groups) to take up cycle training.

The Bikeability Trust will be working closely with Halfords over the summer to start to deliver some of these benefits for the industry and will provide regular updates to local authorities, schemes and instructors on our progress.