Road Safety News

Study highlights Bikeability benefits

Wednesday 25th March 2015

A new study has concluded that Bikeability training improves a child’s ability to perceive and respond to the on-road hazards faced by cyclists.

Bikeability, described as ‘cycling proficiency for the 21st century’, is practical, outcome-led training designed to give children the skills and confidence they need to cycle on today’s roads, and encourage them to cycle more often with less risk.

The research, undertaken by the National Foundation for Educational Research on behalf of the DfT, set out to establish how Bikeability “affects the ability of children to perceive and appropriately respond to hazards when cycling on the road”.

668 pupils from 29 schools participated in an on-screen quiz devised to test knowledge and skills relating to hazard perception. The quiz was taken by both Bikeability-trained and untrained pupils and validated by a practical on-road assessment of the Bikeability-trained children.

The findings showed that children who participated in Bikeability Level 2 training scored significantly higher on the quiz, than those who had not received the training.

The effect of the training was undiminished when children re-took the quiz more than two months after training, suggesting that the benefits were sustained.

While children who participated in training reported increased confidence when cycling compared to their initial level of confidence, there was no association between training and frequency of cycling. Children did not report that they cycled more often as a result of receiving Bikeability training, despite the fact that their confidence had increased.


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There are a couple of interesting comments in here that I would like to address – mainly from Bob I guess though I’ll start with the assertion that Bikeability doesn’t appear to increase use.

Bikeability has always fallen between two camps – active travel promotion and safety. Although it was billed as something that would increase use it aimed to do so by reducing fear of injury and lack of safe behaviours as blocks to use – both the cyclist’s inclinations and the preparedness of a parent/carer to allow them to cycle. That it does not itself appear to be unlocking latent cycling use reminds us there are further challenges to face in that regard – some mentioned here, other not – but it does not diminish its value in safety terms.

In which respect Bob, and others, might want to check out the casualty trends in Devon where cycle journeys across the age ranges have been increasing steadily in recent years (including for younger children). We train around 7000 children a year using Bikeability which I think makes us one of the larger providers in the UK. Whilst we are observing disappointing overall increases in cyclist injuries (unacceptable to us even if tracking growth) injuries to cyclists under 16 years are bucking the trend and decreasing.

Our cycle stats overall can be found in Chapter 6 of our annual report (p34) and our child casualty stats can be found in Chapter 7 (p46) for those interested.

Just a couple of final quickies - the road is a more complex space than it was and that’s why there is a league of difference between Bikeability and previous incarnations of cycle training. And I’m confident it will continue to develop in line with need.

As for the idea that our capacity to prosecute should be any kind of an arbiter as to whether or not a child should ride on the road – actually I really don’t know what to say to that.
Jeremy, Devon

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

Our roads are more congested today than ever before, but are they more dangerous? From 1950 through to 1960 the fatals per 10 billion vehicle miles were in excess of 8,000. It fell consistently throughout the seventies and eighties to around 1,500 in 2010. Which tends to show our roads are safer today than in the last sixty years.

The number of fatalities overall rose from 5,000 in 1950 to 8,000 in 1966, but fell steadily thereafter to just under 2,000 in 2010. Many more vehicles and vehicle miles travelled, yet far fewer fatalities.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

It's undoubtedly a credit to Bikeability that the Level 2 training demonstrates improved hazard perception and response. However, I have always taken the view that, if the goal is more people cycling more often, it is better to train a smaller number of willing children to Level 3 than a larger number of indifferent children to Level 2. Children who undertake level 3 generally have the support of parents and experience a full preparation for utililty cycling. Regrettably in this as in many areas it is quantity not quality that wins the day. So we remain wedded to getting as many people as possible through a course not dissimilar to the cycling proficiency I undertook in 1973. I don't recall many of my schoolmates of that time continuing cycling afterwards and it would appear that nothing has changed in that respect.
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

Agree (10) | Disagree (1)

There are a number of comments I could make regarding the responses that I have received. Particularly those specifically directed to me by Mr King but I have been told that I take up too much space as it is so I will keep this brief.

I have no objections to children of any age being safe on our streets, as happened when I was a police officer many years ago.

I do not believe in this difficult and more dangerous day and age that all of them have the cognitive ability, certainly at a younger age, to understand the overall situation and complex dangers that may face them.

As they receive instruction in the last year (6th year) of junior school the expectation is that they may cycle to school at the age of eleven, 1st year in senior school and that's what I have said. Nothing more.

Any younger age than that and I don't believe that children should be forced onto the road whether they have had training or not.

Over the age of 10 they can commit an offence under the Highways Act and therefore should obey the law and ride on the road.

Whether they are ready for it is another matter. Time will tell in accident statistics.
Bob Craven Lancs...Space is Safe Camapigner

Agree (3) | Disagree (9)

My goodness - I am agreeing with Rod King!

Waiting for children to enter secondary school before receiving any kind of cycle training is waiting too long. Many children start riding bicycles before primary school age, once at school they will be presented with many more who ride the pavements for fun. This is the age at which basic road safety must be taught. Leave it longer and they will have already learned bad habits, along with (possibly) a degree of arrogance towards motorised traffic picked up through peer pressure and the media - until they start learning to drive a car and when the role may become reversed. Teach them young.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

As a sometime Bikeability Instructor (amongst my other jobs) I can tell you that the main reason children do not cycle is not lack of confidence, poor cycling provision or poor driving behaviour, but because their parents will not let them.

I have experience of training children who, upon finishing the course, have been ordered by their parents "stay on the footpath, because it's safe". Unless they stay on the pavement (riding around the block and no more) it's exceptionally dangerous, when they leave the "safe" footpath to cross the road, as drivers are not expecting this sort of action.

I always try to encourage Bikeability students to ride with their parents, to demonstrate their new found skills. Sadly these days, many parents have given up cycling, as they have it in their mind that it is a dangerous activity.
Martin, Suffolk

Agree (18) | Disagree (0)

There are a number of reasons your suggestions are flawed. Once kids start in secondary education we won't get to them to encourage them to ride on the road, this is why we do it at the latter part of primary education. Also, once they are in 'big school' peer pressure puts a huge dent in what we try to achieve. Introducing children to quieter stretches of the network (mine is a rural county) allows them to develop skills and confidence as road users. How far they progress is down to parents, but we give them a good start while they are willing to learn and we have good access to them...and we don't use Bikeability!
Iain Temperton - Norfolk

Agree (16) | Disagree (0)


The problem with children (or anyone) cycling on the pavement is that it is discontinuous and therefore introduces many conflicts between the cyclist and driver at every road junction. And when crossing side roads from the pavement then children are faced with extremely complex set of circumstances which would have been avoided if their were just cycling on the road.

Shouldn't we have a road environment and attitude to using it that protects all vulnerable road users?
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (20) | Disagree (4)


I think that once children start cycling on the roads then it is their lack of confidence together with poor cycling provision and poor driving which cause them to stop cycling. Hence any initiative that maintains their cycling frequency surely has to be a good one. Courses can both assist that confidence and make cycling a more pleasant experience.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (11) | Disagree (4)

The most telling comment for myself in this report is that there appears to be no association between training and frequency of cycling. The question now has to be asked who needs the training?
Gareth, Surrey

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

How did they know that their confidence had improved, did they ask them? Probably. Well that's what the report says.

Please do not send young children out on cycles and expect them to be on the road. Historically children always rode on the pavement and in that situation they were safe and expected there. When they get to eleven and at big school on big bikes then they should be encouraged to ride properly on the road system. If we put young kids out on the streets they are going to be in all sorts of danger and trouble and so are car drivers.
Bob Craven Lancs...Space is safe Campaigner

Agree (6) | Disagree (20)

It is important to evaluate the effectiveness of any road safety intervention, and this is what this report was commissioned to do in the case of Bikeability.

Our brief news item probably doesn't do the report justice, but we do provide a link to the full report for those who want to read it.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (15) | Disagree (3)

"training improves a child’s ability to perceive and respond to the on-road hazards faced by cyclists"

And just how much did this "study" to find the obvious cost the taxpayers?
Steve, Watford

Agree (6) | Disagree (20)