Why dirt jumping and BMX make our children safer

Why dirt jumping and BMX make our children safer

A lot of Bike Club's goals are about improving people's lives and helping our children to adopt healthy lifestyles.

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.

ROSPA 2005

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.

ROSPA 2005

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.


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This is a really good idea, I feel there should be more BMX and mountain bike designated areas for children to go to as it would keep them out of trouble and will give them something to do.

Good to see that "positive risk taking" is being recognised: we learn by our mistakes, so being allowed to take risks and make mistakes is essential to children's development.

I'm especially pleased to see that none of the children on this page are wearing polystyrene hats or other "protective" equipment: they will learn much more quickly how to avoid hurting themselves too much, and won't learn to rely on equipment that they may not always have.

Good idea. Cycle training to be able to cycle to school is good but what about cycling for fun! This is what we need around Aylesbury and we have the space for it.

That's all good stuff, but tell me why most skateparks are built in touble spots/ghettos? All I want to do is enjoy myself and have a ride with like minded people, but in our current climate, I worry about my bike being nicked or getting in a fight, which I have avoided for 25 ish years.

i agree with chris alot of these places that everyone one wants to ride are very dangeros ive had my bmx stolen four times and they arent atall enjoyable by the surronding people

@Chris T not sure where you live but of all the spots near me none are anywhere near what you'd call a ghetto.

I'm guessing though that the "problem areas" near you get more regeneration and community money funnelled into them. Or you live in a city that has a lot of deprivation in general.

Clive might also link this to a scheme in Bristol where for a cost of £10,000 to set up and support adventures on bikes, there was a reduction of £40,000 in the bill for local vandalism and crimes.

The Devil makes work for idle hands, and a far better solution to confronting this bad behaviour is to offer a more attractive range of activities - in effect outbid the Devil's offer.

I'm afraid agree with ChrisT, I live in Bristol and will only ride at 1 of the BMX/SkateParks due to the amount of robberies/atempted robberies we get. I also manage a bike shop in Bristol and hear of many a young customer who's had their bike robbed from them....and these attacks happen in the more affluent areas, not just the Ghettos.

I'd love to start riding more of the Bristol Skateparks/BMX tracks but I prefer to travel to Trowbridge as you get very little hassle there and there are plenty of "escape routes" if trouble did show up.

Why do they insist on putting 10' fences up around these facilities? If a bunch of yobbos turn up, I want to escape, not be caged in.

I love BMX tracks and Skateparks, and it's great more and more are being built, I just wish the trouble makers (usually non-riders) would stay away.

I've been robbed of my bike in Bristol - at the end of the Bristol/Bath path in broad daylight - loads of other people around, nobody helped and the Police couldn't send anybody out - had to go and sort out a fight somewhere else.

Four of my members of staff went to the new pump track at Longwell Green, got a bit of lip of some young chavs, told them in no uncertain terms to f-off, which they did, only to return later with a car load of older lads with baseball bats and bottles....

a close call was had.

I'm too scared to ride most Bristol Skateparks/BMX tracks...I'm 35.

OMG. what has happened to this world!. When I was young we did this in woods, parks and fields. And some times fell off and got hurt. It's part of life, having fun. Youngster will do these activities regardless, why not have somewhere where there is support and seen investment in our young having fun!

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