Farewell from Michael Frearson, Director of Development and Operations
I discovered Bikeability as a parent, when I saw first-hand the impact of high-quality cycle training on my children’s skills, confidence, and independence. It was because of this that I become an instructor and instructor trainer, stood for election to the board of The Association of Bikeability Schemes and joined the Bikeability Trust. I wanted to train people to cycle to the National Standard, demonstrate the impact of Bikeability, and ensure every child benefits from high-quality cycle training.
I am happy to say a few words about the cycle training programme I have contributed to over the past ten years as I leave the Bikeability Trust.
Instructors are the heart of cycle training. They know cycling is a simple pleasure that most people will enjoy. Once you work out where you are going, enjoyable cycling boils down to doing four things well: making good and frequent observations; choosing and maintaining the most suitable riding positions; communicating your intentions clearly to others; and understanding priorities on the road, particularly at junctions. There is a lot more in the current National standard for cycle training, but these four core functions matter most. Watching others discover their power has been my greatest joy as an instructor.
The ‘universal offer’ promises cycle training for every child in England in the coming years. Robust evidence showing Bikeability has a significant impact on how much and how well children cycle has contributed to this policy decision. Moreover, the current National Standard provides a firm foundation for new developments in cycle training, with adult and family training and online learning the logical next steps. More work is needed to ‘level up’ quality and ensure every child benefits from high-quality cycle training, but I am proud to be associated with these achievements.
I am full of admiration for the team I have led at the Trust: Alison, Anke, Benjamin, Hugo and Louise. Working alongside the Bikeability Effectiveness Advisory Group, the External Quality Assurance panel and our associates, you have transformed the Bikeability programme. Working with our delivery partners – grant recipients, independent providers, instructors – you have ensured the programme reaches hundreds of thousands of children each year. Every day you try to make Bikeability the best it can be, often under difficult circumstances. You deserve everyone’s respect. Thank you.
Honorary Patron’s Blog
Bikeability Trust Partnerships and Patrons
Yesterday marked the last day of the school term for so many across England, and I cant help but think of those children who should have been completing their Bikeability Level 2. Although Covid-19 has undoubtedly reduced our ability to reach our usual numbers, the new online resources for families will play a really important part in promoting cycling across the summer. We’ll be launching a summer family campaign in the next few days with more information to follow shortly, so please help us promote: https://bikeability.org.uk/cycle-more/family-cycling/
As you will be aware, the recent challenges of reacting and revising Bikeability grants has been no small feat. We’ve appreciated your patience whilst we get information out to you, and those of you that have given up time to help us think through some of the implications.
One of the things I’m keen to build on more is our partnerships. To grow the programme to a Universal Offer we need to do more in partnership and grow our influence and expertise.
With that spirit I’m really delighted to announce that we have appointed our first Honorary Patron of the Bikeability Trust – Phillip Darnton OBE, previous Chairman of Cycling England and The Association of Bikeability Schemes, current Chair of the Bicycle Association (which represents the cycling industry) and of the Walking and Cycling Alliance. He will be working with myself and our Chair Dr Alison Hill in helping to grow the Bikeability programme. Phillip has a long history of support and involvement in Bikeability, having really helped it take its first steps to pedalling safely. One of the tasks Phillip will be helping me with is to identify a range of diverse ambassadors. I’m grateful for Phillip’s experience, leadership and commitment to helping the Bikeability Trust rise to meet the current and future challenges.
We have a lot to do in the next period, with the announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review in the Autumn, securing the future and commitment to the Universal Offer is fundamental. We can’t do this alone and we are committed to building strong connections through the regional networks, with potential partners and more ambassadors. On our own we can do our part, but together we can do so much more. I hope that you will join us in securing a strong future for Bikeability.
Emily Cherry reflects on her first full week as Executive Director of the Bikeability Trust
Today marks my first full week as taking over as Executive Director of the Bikeability Trust. A week of being at the helm I thought it was time for my first reflections.
I’m new to the world of cycling, so it has been a steep hill to climb (pardon the pun) with learning about the programme of Bikeability and our wider role in promoting a life-long love of cycling. I want to first thank the Bikeability Trust team who are coping with both managing the normal day to day business, inducting me and managing a significant change programme as a result of Covid-19. Their tenacity, commitment and skill is shining through and much of the Trust’s success is down to them.
I know the programme as a parent, and as a wife. My two children have both done Bikeability, and taking part in the course gave me greater confidence in their cycling ability, and for them too. I also know it as a teacher’s wife, and I equally want to thank the schools up and down the country who allow the program in as they want to equip children with such vital life skills. Many things have changed in the Covid-19 but I think our appreciation of schools have significantly risen. So thank you teachers and office staff for all you do to ensure we can deliver to children.
Luckily this week I was able to watch the delivery on Level 2 on the Road. My first opportunity to actually see (socially distanced of course) what happens. I arrived to see a sea of yellow bibs and children being encouraged and supported to tackle a tricky junction on a busy road. Its one of those moments as a parent that might cause anxiety to rise, but what I witnessed was clear instruction, encouragement, instructors giving praise and advice, children listening, reacting and just lifting their heads up that little bit higher and anticipating what to do instead of worrying. It really showed me that the course works on so many levels.
It was lovely to see at the end how the instructors focussed on the positives, spoke to every child and gave them praise, ensured their teacher knew that every child had demonstrated Level 2 skills. I loved how the teacher filled with pride for the students too and was looking forward to telling the children what they had achieved. In an era when so much of childhood has had to shift, this felt like an oasis of normality.
But we are in far from normal times. Not only do we have to ensure the programme can be delivered safely, flexible to the ever changing Covid-19 conditions, but we’re taking a renewed focus on quality, improvement and a programme for the future.
We need to make Bikeability a household name and that means working through new partnerships, a greater focus on comms and promotion and better use of the evidence of the programme’s impact.
Government is rightly focussed on a new cycling revolution, and we sit at the heart at this. Working with the Department for Transport we want to see cycle training front and centre of government strategy. We’re working to roll out new Bikeability delivery to families, households and adults and support those new, novice and lapsed cyclists who are wanting to get on their bikes as part of pandemic recovery. We’re continuing to build the thinking about how the programme can ramp up and deliver on the commitment to offer training to every child in this parliament.
I’m excited about what the future holds for Bikeability, keen to explore new partnerships, but also mindful of the huge challenges we face. We’ll be taking the summer months to do a review of the Bikeability programme and looking at our strategic direction. I’m always keen to take feedback to help us learn and grow.
My career has been built around helping children to thrive. I believe strongly in the role of Bikeability to develop life-long skills, confidence and joy of cycling. We are strongest when we work together and I look forward to leading the next generation of Bikeability cyclists to take to the road with confidence.
Paul Robison’s reflections on Bikeability, as he stands down as CEO of the Bikeability Trust
Bikeability has many people who maintain to have been there at its creation, and that so many claim parental rights is a testament to the success of the programme. Personally, I make no such claims. I have tried to be an honest and independent administrator for the programme, and my starting point has always been that Bikeability is already an excellent programme (thanks to the hard work and dedication of those who deliver it) and that the Bikeability Trust is there to promote that excellence.
That said, I have also always been conscious that the Trust is itself an overhead: every £40 we spend on administration represents a disappointed child who may never ride their bike. So my aim with the Trust has always been to keep this overhead to a minimum, with regard to staff numbers and salaries and other costs. As the overall programme funding goes up (hurrah!), it’s more important than ever that all overheads are kept to a minimum so that as much of the funding as possible flows through to the people who actually deliver Bikeability.
We have been constrained on promotion since 2010 Cabinet Office rules prohibited spend of public money on it, but Bikeability has been successful nonetheless.
As we all know, the secret is simply that Bikeability is an easy sell. Children want to ride their bikes (and especially if it means missing normal lessons). Parents thinks it’s great. Schools lap it up – partly because children and parents love it, but also because you work so hard to make it easy for them. And, with the Trust’s determination to manage the overheads, Bikeability is a cost-effective programme.
But I’m not daft: I know that Bikeability is part of a bigger picture. We need better infrastructure, determined policing of roads, sensible (and enforced) speed limits, promotion of cycling’s benefits and all the other well-known activities needed to get Britain cycling. On the other hand, our chances of achieving all that are immeasurably increased by putting generation after generation of children on two wheels, discovering the joys and freedom and independence of cycling for themselves.
A quick recap of the last twelve years: the first few years of Bikeability were all about growth. Then we turned our attention to quality. And soon we will be in another growth phase (hurrah!). And I am prouder than I can say to have helped to secure a bright future for Bikeability.
One of the ways to leverage the effect of Bikeability is by partnership. I know there has always been a lot of local partnership work going on, but centrally, we were constrained during the seven years of being in a contract arrangement. Now the Trust is ramping up its collaboration with colleagues in other organisations who are promoting cycling in different ways.
After such positive comments, you may well wonder why I am leaving at all! My reasons are two-fold – one personal and the other professional. After the Brexit referendum, my pride in being British took such a knock that for the first time ever I am considering the possibility of moving abroad, to a country that prefers to look outwards. And after twelve years in various guises of my role, most organisations can benefit from a shake-up – as my wife regularly reminds me, no-one is irreplaceable!
Wherever I go next and whatever I do, I can assure you that it will be cycling-related. Please do keep in touch, as you have become respected colleagues and valued friends. I wish the very best of luck to the trustees and staff – here’s hoping we get back to normal as soon as possible. And an enormous thank you to each and every one of you: you make Bikeability possible. It’s been a privilege to be a part of its ancestry.
29th June 2020
The Bikeability Trust welcomes the Transport Secretary’s support for cycle training
The Bikeability Trust welcomes the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps’ support for cycle training, when he stated last week that he was committed to making sure all children in England can access Bikeability training.
He also said he was ‘actively looking’ at support for adult training – a particularly valuable tool currently for those new, novice or lapsed cyclists that have recently discovered, or rediscovered cycling during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The Bikeability Trust recognises the vital role that cycle training, for both adults and children offers, giving them the requisite skills needed to be able to cycle more confidently and more safely on-road and providing a viable alternative for many journeys by car. The effectiveness of cycle training is increased further when combined with high-quality cycling infrastructure and driver education programmes.
Emily Cherry, Executive Director of The Bikeability Trust explains, “Getting people cycling right now is essential not just for their own health and well-being, but also for the contribution cycling can make to the economy and also tackling key societal issues such as obesity, air pollution and road traffic danger. We are working closely with the government to support them in their efforts to encourage cycling via a variety of measures, including cycle training. We have been developing new resources to help meet our joint objectives to get more families cycling more confidently together, both for leisure and everyday journeys.”
In response to the demand for cycling generated during Covid-19 lockdown, and to support families who have not been able to benefit from Bikeability training over the last months, The Bikeability Trust has produced a series of short films – Essential Cycling Skills, as part of their overall suite of resources to encourage more cycling. Each film focuses on different stages of a cycling journey and features the four core functions used in Bikeability training.
The Bikeability Trust is also working with the Department for Transport on the development of new training modules – the first is aimed at training families, will be piloted over the summer and launched in September. The second training module is targeted at adults and will be launched this summer.
Emily Cherry appointed new Executive Director of The Bikeability Trust
The Bikeability Trust is delighted to announce the appointment of Emily Cherry as the new Executive Director of the charity.
Emily Cherry has over 20 year’s experience working in children’s charities – at NSPCC, Barnardos, Internet Watch Foundation, Peace One Day and the Children’s Society. She has spent the last two years running a consultancy working with a broad range of clients taking on challenging projects to build efficiency, change and increase effectiveness. An inspirational public speaker, Emily has provided commentary on many issues and policy initiatives and has been a significant contributor to news shows appearing regularly on major TV channels. She has exceptionally good relationships with a range of broadcasters and policy makers. Emily lives in a small village near Cambridge, is married to a primary school teacher and has two children. The whole family are keen cyclists and ride regularly together.
Chris Heaton-Harris, Minister of State for Transport confirmed his support for both the Bikeability training programme and Emily’s appointment, “I’d like to offer my congratulations to Emily on her appointment, and will look forward to working with her in the future to provide essential Bikeability training to all children. I want to also thank Paul Robison for his many years of service and dedication to the Bikeability programme.”
Alison Hill, Chair of The Bikeability Trust trustees says, “Emily’s impressive track record, experience and enthusiasm will ensure that the Trust continues to grow and develop even in these difficult times – providing support for the Bikeability industry, maintaining high standards and expanding the cycle training delivery programme.
I am looking forward to working with her to build on the hard work, determination and foresight that our current Executive Director, Paul Robison invested in the creation of the Bikeability Trust three years ago.”
Emily Cherry added “I know first-hand as a parent the importance of children gaining self-confidence and skills through vital Bikeability training. I am grateful for Paul Robison’s commitment to the Trust and establishing such successful foundations. I am delighted to be taking on the task of expanding the Bikeability programme and ensuring more children are taught to cycle to the National Standard.
The COVID19 pandemic has created challenges for current delivery of training, but we also know how some families are using this period to rediscover the joy of bikes. Cycling can be a significant part of the nation’s sustainable future and Bikeability training help families enjoy the benefits of safe biking together.”
13th May 2020
The Bikeability Trust’s response to the government’s announcement on getting more people walking and cycling
The Bikeability Trust warmly welcomes Grant Shapps’ announcement on 8th May 2020 of a comprehensive package of funding and other measures to encourage more walking and cycling in England.
The main announcements:
• A national cycling and walking plan to be published in June.
• Renewed commitment to double cycling and increase walking by 2025.
• £2bn for cycling and walking (from the £5bn funding pot for buses and cycling announced in February).
• £250million emergency fund for instant pop-up schemes (pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements. cycle and bus-only streets).
• A new national cycling and walking champion and inspectorate.
• Legal changes to protect vulnerable road users.
• At least one “zero-emission city,” with its centre restricted to bikes and electric vehicles.
• The creation of a long-term cycling programme and budget, just like the budget for roads.
• A voucher scheme for bike repairs and maintenance, and plans to boost bike fixing facilities.
• Much closer links with the NHS, with GPs prescribing cycling and exercise.
• Higher standards for permanent infrastructure.
The Bikeability Trust is greatly encouraged by the details of the government’s plan to boost levels of walking and cycling nationally, in particular the creation of a long-term cycling programme and budget, just like the budget for roads.
The importance of providing new or novice cyclists with support and advice, including cycle training (for both adults and children) is a key tool to encourage people to take up cycling again. Cycle training is a natural companion to many of the initiatives mentioned in the plan, including working with GPs to prescribe cycling and exercise, as well as schemes for bike repairs and maintenance.
The closure of schools under the Covid-19 lockdown has, unfortunately, put a temporary halt to the delivery of Bikeability training by the network of 326 registered Bikeability providers and 2,750 professional Bikeability instructors who are trained, registered and paid to deliver Bikeability.
However, the Bikeability Trust is currently working to develop clear guidance for the delivery of cycle training that will meet the anticipated new health and safety standards required for teaching, in preparation for when schools reopen.
Paul Robison, CEO of the Bikeability Trust says “We are in consultation with Bikeability delivery partners to ensure that the safety of our instructors as well as teachers, trainees and their families is a key priority within any new Bikeability training guidance. We hope that the new guidance will enable Bikeability training to be delivered safely and effectively in this era of physical distancing under Covid-19. “
Cycle training plays a critical role in enabling people to cycle more often and more safely, whilst also contributing to a healthier, cleaner environment for all.
12th May 2020
The 2020 National Bikeability Awards winners are announced
The Bikeability Trust announces the winners of the 3rd annual, national Bikeability Awards programme with a ‘virtual’ award presentation this year, due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
The primary aim of the Awards Programme is to reward and promote the good work that the Bikeability industry and partners are doing. Secondary aims include collecting case studies that can be used both to showcase Bikeability to external audiences, and to provide examples of best-practice for peer-to-peer learning within the industry.
Paul Robison, CEO of the Bikeability Trust explains: “Every year I am profoundly touched by the amazing tales of commitment, determination and professionalism to teach and learn – from trainees who have to overcome significant physical challenges to do the Bikeability training, to the school teachers and instructors that demonstrate so much dedication, imagination and determination to deliver the best possible training for the children. And all the work that the providers and local authorities across the country put in to ensure training is delivered on-time and to the highest standards.
The annual Awards provide a great opportunity to ensure these achievements are recognised and rewarded and we hope to be able to hold a series of face-to-face presentations with the worthy recipients later this year.”
14th February 2020
The Bikeability Trust welcomes the government’s announcement that Bikeability will be extended to every child in England
The Bikeability Trust welcomes the government’s February 2020 announcement that Bikeability will be extended to every child in England. Cross-party support for this has been evident since April 2013, when the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group called for the expansion of Bikeability to help Get Britain Cycling.
Bikeability teaches mostly children and young people excellent cycle handling skills and how to cycle safely and responsibly everywhere cycling is permitted. The Bikeability Trust is unashamedly proud of the Bikeability programme and everyone involved in ensuring it is well received,, highly effective and has significant impact.
Now more than ever, all such measures require strong national and local leadership and sufficient and sustained funding to help more people cycle, more safely, more often.
Until now around 50% of all primary school children have been able to access training at Bikeability Level 2. In the year up to April 2019, more than 410,000 children participated in Bikeability and Bikeability Plus, and the total number of children trained since Bikeability was launched in 2006 has reached 3.1 million. This government commitment to extend the programme by an additional 400,000 places each year to reach all school children will be welcomed by local authorities and schools across England.
Paul Robison, Chief Executive Officer of the Bikeability Trust, says:
“We are delighted that essential bike safety and skills training will now be offered to every child in England. The value-for-money that this investment represents cannot be overstated. High-quality cycle training enables confident and enjoyable cycling, raises awareness of skilful cycling among all road users, and contributes to better transport, health and wellbeing.
Children love Bikeability and parents value the training their children receive. Independent research confirms Bikeability helps children cycle more safely, more often. And children who cycle regularly are more likely to become active adults.
Bikeability training also helps tackle a range of key issues for today’s society from reducing child obesity, contributing to children’s confidence and self-esteem, reducing CO2 emissions and air pollution. “
The Bikeability Trust is also delighted to see the increased investment in other cycling and walking initiatives including an additional £22 million for the Access Fund, Big Bike Revival and Walk to School Outreach to fund projects next year to kickstart behaviour change.
Alison Hill, Chair of Bikeability Trust trustees says:
“It’s the combination of infrastructure provision for walking and cycling, behaviour change programmes and cycle training programmes such as Bikeability, that will be most effective in encouraging our nation to start walking and cycling more regularly for both leisure and utility journeys. Increased investment in active travel is vital to address issues of social inclusion, health and well-being as well as achieving carbon reduction.“
New Year, New Opportunities
Paul Robison, CEO shares his thoughts on 2020:
The funding increase that I hinted at in my previous blog is now a reality.
We are now negotiating with DfT over how the increase will be phased in. The Minister is keen to get going. We are too, but we are also conscious of the logistical hurdles – not least, recruiting and training new instructors whilst we are in the midst of the change to a new qualification.
As well as recruiting instructors – and making sure that existing ones are enjoying it enough to want to carry on – another challenge will be to increase uptake at schools that already ‘do’ Bikeability. We (collectively) will also need to attract those schools that currently don’t, for whatever reason. (Perhaps they are small or remote or otherwise challenging for us, through no fault of their own, and have been left out so far, or they may be neutral about – or even resistant to – doing Bikeability.) We will help as far as possible to drive up demand by central promotion and awareness-raising. We will also provide tools that can be used locally. But the hard work will have to be done by Bikeability Providers. For that, we thank you in advance, in the certain knowledge that the commitment of the entire Bikeability family will enable us to achieve whatever targets we are set.
At the same time as growing the Bikeability programme, we have to make sure we maintain standards and keep increasing the quality of experience for participants. We have gathered momentum on this in the last few years and need to keep up that momentum. I feel sure that this is now in our DNA, but we will have to be watchful for mutations, not least because the expansion will probably require a degree of flexibility to reach those new audiences. Our version of evolution by natural selection – with the best version triumphing – will happen if we put the participants and their interests at the centre of everything we do.
Now for a personal update. Over the Christmas break, I have been doing a lot of thinking and have decided that it is time for me to hand over the reins of the Bikeability Trust to someone new. I am immensely proud of Bikeability, and of the Trust. I think the programme is in a wonderful place. It is well-regarded, we have good (and growing) evidence of its efficacy, and we work with a hugely committed and enthusiastic group of people all across the country, delivering inspiring training day in and day out. Bikeability is poised for the next phase of its journey.
The Trust is also in a good position to continue to administer Bikeability. My intention when setting the charity up was to create a small, lean, efficient organisation that could shepherd the Bikeability programme whilst absorbing as little funding as possible in order to keep the maximum money available for the training itself. I believe we have done this so far, and I am sure that the trustees will continue to ensure that it remains that way. At some point, the Trust is likely to have to compete with other organisations for the privilege of its role in running Bikeability, and cost-effectiveness is one of its key advantages, along with a deep knowledge of the programme.
I will be helping the board of trustees to recruit a new CEO, so I won’t be going immediately. Unless recruitment goes much faster than expected, I will be in Birmingham for the training days (May 13th & 14th). And once the new CEO is in place, we will decide together with the board whether it would be a help or a hindrance for me to become a trustee.
I shan’t go in detail into my reasons for stepping down but suffice it to say that, since the Brexit vote, I have not felt proud to be British and I need the space to decide how and where to spend my future.
Please keep an eye on our jobs page for details of the CEO role. It has been a privilege and an honour to steer the Trust through its first three years (and to have steered the Bikeability programme for the eight years prior to that as well). We have a superb team, and a talented and supportive board of trustees. Whoever takes on the role will be a lucky person. Our office in Cambridge also has a lovely view of the river Cam and cycling to work is a joy!
Exciting times ahead
Paul Robison (CEO,Bikeability Trust) publishes his monthly blog:
I am writing this ahead of the general election and wherever your sympathies may lie, I am delighted to say that all major parties are supportive of Bikeability – so much so that whatever result we wake up to on 13 December, we should be closer to being able to offer Bikeability to all children. That everyone on the political spectrum agrees on the benefits of Bikeability and its value for money is testament to the hard work and professionalism of everyone involved. Politicians and lobbyists will claim the credit – that’s their nature! – but the ones who deserve it will be the people you never hear about, working hard for Bikeability every day, quietly reminding others of its benefits. You know who you are: thank you.
My first blog post of 2020 will focus on where we will go next, once the mist clears from the election and the festive period. Meanwhile, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on the many achievements of 2019 – although the year seems to have passed in something of a blur (that may be my age…). From my perspective, the highlight of the year was our event in Hereford in May, and in particular the Awards. Here at the Trust we can feel a bit distant from the wonderful things that happen, and the Awards bring home to us just how much is going on and how many terrific people are delivering and enjoying Bikeability. (Of course we need to know if something is going wrong, but feel free to let us know about the good stuff as well!) Our summer campaign was a great learning experience for us and provided a marvellous kick-start to our social media presence, accompanied by a refreshed Bikeability website and new ‘Club’ for families. The new Delivery Guide was issued, following really useful feedback, and now everyone is referring to a single, simplified guide – a great improvement. And on 1 August, after many years of planning and consultation, our new instructor training regime came into force, with a two-year transition period for existing instructors. Goodness, when I think about all these achievements, it’s no wonder the year went past so quickly!
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy festive season – and thank you again for your contribution to Bikeability. Enjoy a well-deserved rest and here’s to even more Bikeability in 2020.
Tell me, Teach me, Involve me
Paul Robison (CEO Bikeability Trust) publishes his monthly blog:
I don’t know about you, but much of what I learned at school has long disappeared from my memory. Kings and queens, chemical formulae, the order of the geological ages – all gone. But the skills I learned as part of my Cycling Proficiency (big thanks to Constable Tower of Tolworth in Surrey) are hardwired into me. And – as a lifelong lover of cycling as a form of transport, a way to see the world and a handy method for keeping fit (and, a side benefit for me, saving the planet) – I am hopeful that today’s children will come to feel the same way about the skills they learned during Bikeability.
Whoever said “tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn” (* and the attribution is hotly disputed) might have had Bikeability in mind. The Wikipedia entry for experiential learning even cites learning to ride a bike as an example:
So far, so good. We can confidently claim that Bikeability is involving, and all the evidence shows that children and their parents value it highly (* Ipsos Mori refs). Yet we also know that without practice the children will forget their new skills, along with the chemical formulae.
Educationalists know that to make something really sink in, you have to revisit it after teaching it. For that reason, my long-term vision for Bikeability includes practical riding as a follow-up to each level, built in to the programme itself. For example, this could be Bikeability Ride, a week or more after the formal end of the course. This will take time, money and determination to achieve. But until we find a way to persuade all parents to allow their children put their new-found skills into practice, it will remain our best option to make sure those skills are retained for a lifetime.
2020/21 Bikeability funding announcement
More school children across England will now learn essential cycling skills, thanks to a £13 million Government investment in the Bikeability cycle training programme.
In the year up to April 2019, around 400,000 children completed the scheme, and the total number of children trained since Bikeability was launched in 2006 has now reached three million. The funding will ensure that the programme is able to continue for another year, so that approximately 50% of primary schools across England will be able to access the programme.
Say what you mean and mean what you say
Paul Robison (CEO – Bikeability Trust) publishes his October blog:
We speak one of the most dynamic languages in the world. English is constantly evolving thanks to the huge numbers of speakers from all parts of the globe, and aided by its use in the worlds of entertainment and commerce. Of course we all have our own way of speaking, usually tied to our age (i.e. when we learned to speak): being of mature years myself, I doubt I will ever be able to say “spouse-equivalent” instead of “wife”. And in general I do not like engineered changes in language – I prefer them to flow naturally through increased use and familiarity. But sometimes we do have to stop and think very carefully about what we actually mean by the words we select.
In the world of Bikeability, we have taken a few decisions to change our own terminology to make sure that we are communicating exactly what we mean. For instance, the word “cyclist” seems to irritate some people – indeed, at the more rabid fringes of the car lobby, it has become almost a term of abuse. And rather than risk carrying any of that negativity with us, we now choose to talk instead about “people on bikes”. This has the added benefit of reminding everyone that we are indeed people – not machines. (On a related subject, have you ever noticed that when the media report a traffic accident, they will say “there was a collision between a cyclist and a car”, or “a car hit a cyclist”? Why do they not say “there was a collision between a cyclist and a car driver”? It is as though the driver has no control over the machine, whereas the cyclist is given all the responsibility.)
In a second deliberate choice, we refer now to “riders” rather than to “trainees”. This is to reflect the fact that many Bikeability riders – especially at Level 3 – already know how to ride their cycles, and are simply learning how to ride them better. It also removes the suggestion that Bikeability issues licences, which is what a “trainee” might expect to receive at the end of it.
Also (I’ll admit this one is taking me a while to adopt), we are trying to talk about “cycles” rather than “bikes”. There are many people who ride cycles in formats other than the two-wheeled (for instance, many disabled people and the very young and very old love to zoom around on tricycles), and we don’t want to exclude them from either Bikeability or the conversations that we have about cycling.
On a similar vein, we often use the term ‘industry’ when referring to the Bikeability programme in which we all operate, but is this the best word to be using and is there a good alternative?
What do you think? Are there other cycling terms that we are using without thinking deeply enough about what they really mean or say?
And finally, we have launched the annual provider survey for 2019, a link to which you can find in the October newsletter, your responses are very valuable and we would like as many responses as possible before the deadline. Previous ‘Scheme surveys’ have provided useful information for the development of the Bikeability programme. The 2018 report can be found on the Bikeability professionals website here. Results from the 2019 survey will be available in the new year.
Get a move on, to slow down
Paul Robison (CEO – Bikeability Trust) publishes his September blog:
As many of you will know, from 2022 all cars sold in the UK and Europe will have to be fitted with a range of safety features, including automated emergency braking, electronic data recorders, improved visibility – and devices to automatically stop drivers exceeding the speed limit. (And although the UK may no longer be part of the EU by then, the Vehicle Certification Agency, has said it will mirror these safety standards for vehicles in the UK.) Intelligent speed assistance (ISA) uses GPS data and sign recognition cameras to detect speed limits where the car is travelling, and will sound a warning and automatically slow the vehicle down if it is exceeding the limit.
I live in Cambridge and we have a good number of local roads with the new 20mph speed limit in place, down from the original 30mph. But this lower limit has no effect at all because there are no cameras on these roads and therefore drivers feel disinclined to take any notice. (Don’t get me started on cameras and how years ago the government capitulated to the car lobby and painted all cameras yellow so that no-one would be caught unawares while breaking the law, and then seemed to give up on them entirely.) But ISA will change all of that.
Here’s the cunning plan. At the moment, councils are quite happy to put 20mph zones in place (it makes them look safety-conscious and environmentally-friendly) – and drivers don’t object to them because, without cameras, they are toothless. So get onto your council now and persuade them to put in 20mph limits all over your local area. And then, when ISA comes in in 2022, the new limits will start to work. I know what you’re thinking: only new cars will have ISA – and that’s true. But if you think about how traffic works… it takes only one car at the head of the queue to go at 20mph, and every car behind them has to do it too. And people in the UK do love to buy new cars – there’ll be lots of them on the road in 2022, complete with ISA. Write those letters now!
6th August 2019
Paul Robison (CEO – Bikeability Trust) publishes his August blog:
Let me start this blog by stating one thing very clearly: I am not in favour of dictating how people dress to ride their bikes. If you want to wear padded shorts or jeans, a skin-tight top or a string vest, cleated shoes or winkle-pickers, it’s up to you. However, there is one item that I would never go without, regardless of the distance cycled, the destination, the bike involved or the weather, and that’s my glasses. I’m lucky not to need them for vision correction but I find them invaluable for protecting my eyes from all manner of damage – and I’ve grown quite fond of my eyes.
For a start, there’s UV damage. Most research suggests that if you expose your eyes to too much UV, your vision in later life will be significantly impaired by macular degeneration or cataracts. It happened to my father-in-law, who worked for many years in what was then called “the tropics” and didn’t wear sunglasses; for the last decade of his life he could see nothing in the centre of his vision and around the edges all the straight lines were wavy. He made the best of it by saying that it made all women look like Gina Lollobrigida, but it stopped him reading, which broke his heart. Your glasses don’t have to be tinted to give UV protection; you can get clear ones that offer it.
And then there are all the things that happen to your eyes as you’re pedalling along. Wind can blow bits into them (or just dry them out), there’s endless pollen in the summer, a passing car can flick up road scraps, flying beasties can hit your eyeball – and any one of those is going to (a) hurt, (b) affect your vision and (c) perhaps startle or harm you so much that you are distracted and lose control.
We teach riders to recognise and anticipate potential risks and how to ride in order to reduce them. Eye damage from UV light is a certain risk that will happen. The good news is that it’s easy to mitigate, and to do so with style.
So come on: wear those specs with pride and protect your peepers.
2018 Annual Review – The Bikeability Trust
The Bikeability Trust has published it’s first annual review of the national Bikeability cycle training programme. This review also covers the activity of the Bikeability Trust, but its main aim is to take stock of the Bikeability programme itself.
29th May 2019
Bikeability leads the peloton
Paul Robison (CEO – Bikeability Trust) publishes his May blog:
It is all too easy in articles and indeed blog posts to focus on what can be improved and what still remains to be done, but it is important to take pride in what has already been achieved. And everyone connected with Bikeability – whether as part of the Trust, or as an instructor, a registered provider or behind the scenes in funding – should be very proud of how we are seen as a model cycle training set-up by other countries. We are frequently approached for advice and this is unusual in the world of utility cycling. (Of course, in the sports cycling world, the UK has plenty of expertise to offer, perhaps in how to cycle fast up mountains while pondering therapeutic use exemptions…)
A couple of years ago the New Zealand government did some detailed research to help them plan their own national cycling education programme and this showed them that Bikeability was the obvious source of inspiration. They approached us, we gave them some advice, and the result has been the launch of BikeReady (https://www.bikeready.govt.nz/). I spoke about Bikeability during my presentation at the VeloCity conference in the Netherlands in 2017 – and after my talk, representatives from several other countries came to see me to ask for the NZ treatment.
I realised that dealing with countries one by one would take up a lot of time and thought that the most efficient way to disseminate what we have learned would be to approach an international body and work with them to reach their members. The European Cycling Federation was not interested but the UCI jumped at the chance. As the international governing body for sports cycling the UCI naturally concentrates on that aspect but they are also concerned with promoting everyday cycling – which they call Cycling for All. (Our own British Cycling is a member National Federation of the UCI and they reflect this split of interest: sport at the heart of it but recognition that not everyone has the thighs of Chris Hoy and most trainees are going to be everyday cyclists rather than sports superstars.)
We’ve been working with the UCI for over a year now, packaging up the best practice represented by Bikeability to be made available to their 194 National Federations. The hope is that these federations will use the advice and materials to persuade their governments to commit to cycle training in the way that ours has – and then there will truly be cycling (training) for all.
11th April 2019
The right outcome
Paul Robison (CEO – Bikeability Trust) publishes his April blog:
The most common complaint that we receive here at Bikeability HQ – and I feel sure that many similar complaints are headed off by Bikeability providers before they reach us – is from parents whose children are upset and whose confidence has been knocked because they have “failed” their Bikeability training. We know that Bikeability instructors do their very best to explain that they have not “failed” but the takeaway, it seems, is almost invariably negative and damaging. We have therefore decided that no child should ever “fail” Bikeability and that instead we will focus on celebrating and marking each child’s progress.
Our badge-awarding policy will be changing, because the old policy was exacerbating the tendency for children and their parents to perceive “not achieving all the outcomes” as failing. From May onwards, every child who attends a course will receive all three awards: a badge, a certificate and a booklet (as per the Bikeability grant terms). The reverse of the certificate will indicate to parents any areas of improvement on which they could focus with their child. As we make this change, we have resisted the (quite large) temptation to rebrand with “Bikeability badgers” – a common mishearing by children. On reflection, sending each child home with a large, striped, nocturnal, digging machine was considered impractical.
Talking of badges, we are pleased to hear anecdotal evidence from providers that children prefer our new PVC badges to the metal predecessors, even if instructors don’t necessarily feel the same way. Contrary to popular belief we did not make the switch for financial reasons but because thousands of the metal badges went rusty in storage and we didn’t want to risk having to send more to landfill. Nearly every adult you meet will tell you that they still have their Cycling Proficiency badge (“somewhere”), and we hope that Bikeability badges will be similarly treasured.
13th March 2019
Creating The Bikeability Trust
Paul Robison (CEO – Bikeability Trust) publishes his March blog:
Last month I told you all about the history of children’s cycle training here in the UK, leaving you on tenterhooks to hear about how the Bikeability Trust finally saw the light of day!
From 2011 to 2016, the contract to manage and administer Bikeability was led by a company called CTA, of which I was one of the directors, alongside SDG. But – in a move that would be decried by management textbooks everywhere – we spent a good deal of our time trying to think of ways to dissolve ourselves and hand Bikeability over to a charitable organisation.
Along the way we were involved in the establishment of TABS – The Association of Bikeability Schemes – which was funded by a start-up grant from the Department for Transport. TABS was intended to represent Bikeability schemes, run an annual conference, and lobby for continued (and hopefully increased) Bikeability funding.
In an important step towards professionalisation, 2012 saw the introduction of quality assurance for Bikeability schemes, requiring registration (confirmed annually) and both internal and external quality assurance measures. In 2014 Bikeability Plus was created by collecting what innovative providers were already doing and re-packaging it as modules so all other providers could deliver it off the shelf. And in 2015 we made the monumental decision to change the Bikeability badges from metal to PVC.
In 2016 the contract to manage and administer Bikeability came up for renewal and the moment was ripe. CTA included its plans for a Bikeability Trust in its bid and – when it won the contract in October 2016 – the die was cast. A business plan was created for the Bikeability Trust and an application made to the Charity Commission in November 2016. Two nail-biting months later, the Bikeability Trust received its charitable status on 13 January 2017 and I had a long lie-down in a darkened room.
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.
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.