Norman Baker, Minister for Local and Regional Transport, delivered a short video speech at 3 Bikeability workshops on December 6, 8 and 10 in Leeds, Bristol and London respectively.
The workshops were arranged to advise local authorities and others of the Department for Transport’s continued commitment and funding of Bikeability training following the minister’s approval to provide £11.5 million of funding for Bikeability in 2011 to 2012 and to advise of our continued funding by way of 3 year grants after 2011, once formal delivery mechanisms have been put in place by the department.
Hello. I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person today. However, I’m delighted to be able to address you with the aid of technology - something which also fulfils another part of my ministerial brief, namely that of ‘Alternatives to travel’.
I thought I’d begin by sharing the following thought with you. Frances E Willard, who, in 1895, wrote ‘How I learned to ride the bicycle’, said this: “She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.”
Never a truer word said because although I doubt she preached her view in the context of health, we now know that cycling has many benefits, not least of which are the benefits to our health. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise per day can have a tremendous positive impact on health, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes and some cancers, as well as improving mental health. Indeed, if it were discovered today, cycling might well be called a miracle cure.
This is one reason why I’m keen to see a new generation of cyclists come forth and Bikeability plays a key role in making this hope a hard reality. I am glad to say that most local authorities play a leading role in its delivery, so making it a truly national scheme. To those local authorities here today that don’t currently participate in delivery - I would urge you to do so. The children in your schools and their parents will thank you. Learning to cycle safely and confidently on today’s roads is crucial if the bicycle is to become a more important part of how people get around in the future, as I want it to be, and if we are to create a next generation of committed cyclists.
And to prove the point, some research on Bikeability training recently published by the department revealed that:
- Bikeability training is rated very highly by both parents and children - with over 95% responding positively
- children who have taken part in the Bikeability scheme feel safer and more confident when riding on the road
- just as importantly, their parents feel more confident allowing them to do so - because they consider that their children’s ability to judge risks on the road has been improved by the training
It’s 5 years since Bikeability was first launched in Leicester. Since then there has been tremendous progress. Positive interest in Bikeability is at an all time high amongst members of Parliament, as I know only too well, having responded to a number of Parliamentary Questions recently. And I’m delighted that I can be so positive in my replies regarding funding and delivery.
This year, the coalition government has followed through on its commitment to support sustainable travel, including cycling. We’ve maintained the cycling budget for this financial year, which includes £11 million for Bikeability training - that’s enough to train 275,000 additional children.
For next year and beyond, we have created a new Local Sustainable Transport Fund, worth £560 million over 4 years. This fund will be available for all sorts of cycling initiatives, and specifically will be used to support Bikeability for the remainder of the Parliament, with no reduction in the current annual spend. I hope this clearly demonstrates our strong commitment to cycle training to all concerned.
Many of you here today have played a part in making Bikeability the success it is. The message I have for you today is that “the best is yet to come”.
I will soon be offering cycle training grants to over 100 local authorities outside of London to deliver Bikeability training in 2011 and 2012.
I will also be continuing to offer grants to schools through the Youth Sport Trust and their network of 400-plus School Sports Partnerships.
This funding is vitally important in those few areas where Bikeability is not delivered by local authorities or where authorities alone cannot meet local demand. And I’m grateful to the many School Sports Partnership managers who have helped increase the delivery of Bikeability, by developing their own Bikeability schemes and trainers.
There is of course much more to Bikeability than just the cycle training that goes on in our schools. It’s underpinned the National Standard for cycle training - which is the “gold standard” for training. I believe it’s only right that our children are taught the best road craft and on-road skills by the best instructors, and we will continue to develop and improve the standard.
By allowing only registered schemes to deliver Bikeability this ensures consistent training around the country. And it may interest you to know that we recently registered the 300th scheme and there are many more to come.
We also have more than 5,000 fully qualified and assistant National Standard instructors. And recently we announced the first successful “Independent Training Organisations” - which the department recognise as high-quality providers of instructor training. This will ensure Bikeability training remains consistent with the requirements of the national standard, namely, promoting excellence in training. We’ll also continue to support and fund the Cycle Training Standards Board, which oversees the national standard.
Somebody once said of the bicycle “It’s the first machine we master as children and the one we abandon when the seductions of the car take over.” With a significant revival of interest in cycling, this is no longer true. And by supporting the continued growth and development of Bikeability, we’re giving our children the skills needed to cycle more safely on modern roads.
Once again, my apologies for being unable to attend in person, but I wish you an interesting and stimulating day. As you develop cycle training strategies around the country, do so in the knowledge that you are leaving a lasting legacy of high quality cycle training to all our children. And I wish you all every success in doing so.