Summer’s here and it’s time to ‘get on your bike’ – literally. Yes, Thursday 5th August is Cycle To Work Day where everyone is encouraged to cycle to work… or round the park, or in their back garden! It doesn’t matter where you are, how old you are or if you’re a complete beginner, a ‘cycling-rememberer’, or Tour de France veteran, this day is for you. It’s about getting in the saddle, keeping yourself fit, helping the environment and having some fun!
Cycle To Work Day is officially promoted at cycletoworkday.org where you can find lots of useful information and advice. There are posters to download to help advertise the day to your staff and parents as well as advice and information on how the Government’s cycle-to-work-scheme works which allows employees to get a discount on cycling equipment through their workplace. You can also find a handbook for employers here which explains the benefits, eligibility, equipment and how it works. Employers can set up their own scheme or work with a third-party to administer the scheme.
What are the benefits of cycling?
The Government recommends that cycling and walking should be the natural choices for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey by 2040. The “Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy”, published in 2017, sets out the Government goals, and the strategies and finance needed to achieve them. The benefits include:
- Better health
- Reduced air pollution
- Cheaper travel
- Increased productivity for businesses
- Increased footfall near shops
- Vibrant and attractive environments designed for healthy living
The health benefits of cycling for individuals are well understood as it can increase fitness, improve mental health and help people maintain a healthy weight. Physical inactivity is estimated to cost the NHS up to £1 billion per year, with further indirect costs calculated at £8.2 billion1 – a substantial amount of the NHS budget, yet many of us remain largely inactive but could easily increase our activity by cycling or walking to work/school.
According to government research:
- Two out of three personal trips are less than five miles
- Over 90% of school children live within 15 minutes of a primary school on foot or by public transport
- Three-quarters of children live within 15 minutes cycle of a secondary school
If we want to improve our health, our lifestyles and look after the planet, then cycling (and walking) more is one way that we can all help.
Top tips for Cycle To Work Day
1. Be prepared and check your bike for safety following the ABCD code:
A – air
B – brakes
C – chain
D – direction
2. Wear the right protective clothing including a well-fitting helmet
3. Plan your route – choose a quieter route if you are less confident
4. Carry some snacks, bicycle repair kit and change of clothes if necessary
5. Wear supportive and sturdy shoes
6. Give yourself plenty of time
7. Follow all road safety rules
8. Stay safe – if you are not confident or sure at junctions, get off your bike and walk it across or round the junction
Encouraging young children to cycle
According to a YouGov poll by Cycling UK, 82% of parents have taught their children to ride a bike, and 70% said they believed it to be a “vital life skill”, but the number of journeys made by bike remains very low at only 2%. Encouraging young children to cycle and learn to ride a bike is one thing that early years settings can do to encourage more cycling.
Bikeability is another Department of Transport scheme that teaches cycling skills and cycling safety to millions of children each year. Bikeability has 3 levels which are suitable for children who can already ride independently without stablilisers, and a lot of primary schools run Bikeability Level 1 and Level 2 courses for their students. But did you know that they also run sessions for children aged 4 – 7 years as part of the Bikeability Plus programme that includes a Balance course and a Learn to Ride course.
The Balance course encourages children to balance on a bike before worrying about pedalling and higher skills. It can be done on a balance bike, or just by removing the pedals and stabilisers from a normal bike. This is a great way to help toddlers become more confident on two wheels, and you could also include scooters too as many younger children begin on these first. Ensure that children are wearing protective clothing and a well-fitting helmet at all times when either scooting or cycling.
There are also more resources aimed at early years settings on the Bikeability site which you can access here. These include lesson plans and information on the following topics:
- Picture This! An Understanding the World activity about cycling
- On our Bicycles – a PSHE & Physical development activity about Bikeability Balance
- “Red, Amber, Green – Roundabout!” A fun activity to do in PE teaching pupils about traffic lights, roundabouts and road safety
- Let’s All Cycle collage – using art and design skills
- A ‘Magic Bicycle-Pencil’ Adventure which encourages the development of fine motors skills and covers a variety of EYFS areas
You could also run a parental advice and information session and incorporate some of the advice from the Bikeability information for families. One of the main areas of concern they are trying to address is to get parents to cycle behind, rather than in front of their children, saying:
“You often see families cycling with the parent in front and the kids dangling behind; what we’re actually trying to do with Bikeability Family is reverse that. When children lead and cycle in front of the adult, the parent can always see the situation and, as a result, parents feel much more in control and much more confident as well.”
The idea behind Cycle to Work Day is to encourage people to cycle more consistently, not just on one day, so why not make it a week- or even a month-long activity? You could even create a fund-raising opportunity and organise some sponsorship for your setting or other charity too. Whatever you decide, we’d love to hear what you’ve been up to, so please send us your pictures and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- NICE report (2013)
- DfT (2015) Investing in Cycling and Walking: The economic case for action; National Travel Survey 2014; Living Streets (2013) The Pedestrian Pound