“Stop making cycling to school difficult” says Cycling UK

Jack's first day at school in September 2017
Cycling UK believes it should be the parents' responsibility rather than the schools to decide what pupils wear in. Josie Dew cycles to school with her children.
Cycling UK has received alarming reports that academies are now introducing policies which will actively discourage pupils from making active journeys to school. 
  • Schools in Coventry, St Albans and Surrey impose policies which are stopping pupils cycling in
  • Charity says schools are trespassing on parental responsibilities with impact on student health and wellbeing
  • Parent says school “overruled” his decision

Despite advice from the Department for Education that schools are not responsible for pupils travelling independently to and from school, Cycling UK has learned recently of at least three schools that are implementing policies directly affecting pupils’ cycling journeys. 

Cycling UK believes these policies will seriously affect pupil uptake of cycling. Currently schools in Coventry, Surrey and St Albans are now regulating what pupils wear while cycling, with bike confiscation threatened should the student not follow their self-imposed guidelines. The charity has since written to these schools offering its advice on how to encourage cycling and make it safer for pupils. 

Any reduction in pupil physical activity will have health implications. In the UK, one in three Year Six pupils are reported to be overweight or obese, and only 20 percent of girls of that age meet physical activity recommendations. Measures introduced to regulate cycling typically have shown a 30 to 40 percent reduction in the activity, with Sydney in Australia showing this to be as high as 90 percent among teenage girls. 

A recent poll of 931 people on Twitter by the charity showed an 87 percent overwhelming supported the need for schools to do more to make their local roads safer, with 11 percent saying cycle training should be more readily available and only 2 percent advocating mandatory helmets and hi-vis. 

The charity is urging all schools and academies to do more to address the causes of danger to their pupils cycling and walking in. Schools should be urging local authorities to address parking, excessive speed and road design near their gates which puts young people at risk. This could be through a range of measures including the introduction of 20mph zones around the school, speed bumps, and designated safe cycle routes. 

The charity has also produced a guide for schools on how to become more cycle-friendly, which advocates greater uptake of Bikeability. 

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Head of Campaigns and Advocacy said: 

“Active pupils are frequently healthier and more attentive students, which is why Cycling UK wants schools to stop making cycling to school difficult, and make active journeys easier and more attractive. Worryingly, we’re seeing head teachers trespassing on parental responsibilities. 

“Our recent Twitter survey showed people felt safer local roads should be the greatest priority for schools. Head teachers have a powerful voice in their community which they should use to encourage their local authorities to adopt 20mph speed limits and traffic calming measures on the streets their pupils are most likely to cycle on.” 

David McKeegan, whose son attends Finham Park academy in Coventry said: 

"As a responsible parent, I did my research and decided to allow my son to ride without a helmet. Now that Finham has overruled my decision by making helmets compulsory, my son no longer cycles to school.

“I just wish they had done their research first. There are more effective ways to improve road safety.” 

Notes to editors

  1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. For an audio clip of Cycling UK's Head of Campaigns, Duncan Dollimore speaking on this topic: https://www.dropbox.com/s/if0eosf11m6mnm3/Cycling%20UK%20on%20school%20cycle%20bans%2011.12.17.wav?dl=0 
  3. For Cycling UK’s a guide for schools to be more cycle friendly see: https://www.cyclinguk.org/campaigning/views-and-briefings/cycle-friendly-schools-and-colleges-ctc-views
  4. Cycling UK’s Twitter survey is available at: https://twitter.com/WeAreCyclingUK/status/935808345688215552
  5. Through the Sugar Tax, the Department for Education has made funding available for primary schools via the PE and Sports Premium to embed physical activity into the school day through active travel to and from school. This funding can also be used to train teachers as Bikeability instructors: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pe-and-sport-premium-for-primary-schools
  6. For media coverage on Beacon School, Surrey’s policies see: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/banstead-head-teacher-says-pupils-13935922 and http://road.cc/content/news/232269-surrey-school-says-students-can-only-cycle-school-if-they-fit-number-plate-their
  7. For media coverage on Sandringham School, St Albans see:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-42151214 and http://road.cc/content/news/232962-academy-school-makes-cycle-helmets-compulsory-and-says-it-will-suspend-pupils
  8. In Coventry, Finham Park School has sought to ban pupils from cycling to school unless pupils wear cycle helmets and has threatened to confiscate bikes of pupils who do not adhere to their policies.

Press contact information

For more information contact the national Cycling UK Press Office on 01483 238 315, 07786 320 713 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org