Why dirt jumping and BMX make our children safer
But sometimes the best way to achieve good things isn't always what you'd expect.
I was chatting earlier to Ian Warby, who is CTC's expert on off-road cycling (mountain biking, BMX, dirt jumping - that kind of thing). Ian has managed the construction of some impressive projects in the Leighton-Linslade area of Bedfordshire.
Ian's work has involved building facilities like a rolling 'pump track' and an off-road loop in areas where young people like to gather and hang around.
Why are we doing this?
Aren't we asking for trouble, creating places for teenagers to hang around? How about anti-social behaviour?
And isn't this kind of riding dangerous? Why are we encouraging young people to throw themselves up and down piles of mud rather than just teaching them how to negotiate road junctions nicely?
These are fair questions. Ian showed me some interesting studies that offer some answers.
In 2005, ROSPA published some information regarding the provision of BMX and dirt jumping facilities for young people:
Research undertaken by Thames Valley Police on a national basis indicates that where provision is made for young people (including BMX facilities) there is a drop in vandalism and petty crime in the area. Fears therefore by local residents of possible problems with the provision of BMX facilities are therefore normally groundless and indeed these facilities normally reduce crime in the area.
BMX and dirt jumping is by its very nature a high risk activity. Accidents will always happen. However as less than 20% of visits to A&E Departments by BMX riders are as a result of incidents on designated areas and over 95% of all fatalities are as a result of collisions with motor vehicles, provision of facilities greatly improves the overall safety of young people in the community.
These conclusions make good sense. Provide an activity to capture children's enthusiasm and they are less inclined to drift towards crime and anti-social behaviour. Furthermore, provide an environment in which young people can learn to take measured risks and they often find themselves at reduced danger from serious injury.
This is the kind of thing that we believe in. If Bike Club helps young people to focus their energies into sport and activity, we know we can improve the lives not only of the children that ride with us, but of the communities in which they live.