Govt in £140m cycling push

The government today pledged to spend £140 million encouraging cycling among children and adults.

The funding will be used to teach more children how to cycle safely as well as connecting schools to the National Cycle Network.

Cycling initiatives will be extended across the country to promote greater take-up of the low carbon transport option.

The government has billed today’s investment, to be delivered over the next three years, as part of its commitment to sustainable transport initiatives.

If adopted it could reduce road congestion and improve air quality, as well as encourage people to take more exercise, transport secretary Ruth Kelly said today.

Ms Kelly said: “Cycling brings many benefits, both for the individual in terms of health and fitness and for the local community as it helps tackle congestion and improve local air quality.

“Being able to cycle safely is an important life skill and I want to give more children the opportunity to do it and encourage more adults to reach for their bikes.”

The funding will be used to enable an extra half a million English schoolchildren to take part in Bikeability cycle training by 2012. The government believes the classes will reassure parents their children will be safe on the roads.

Children’s secretary Ed Balls said: “I want children and young people out and about learning to travel safely and independently to school and to other activities. If children can cycle safely to school it will help tackle obesity, keep kids active and help protect the environment.

“As I said in the Children’s Plan we want to encourage more outdoor activities and cycling can be an important part of healthy living which is something we all need to teach children, at home as well as in the classroom.”

Some 500 more schools will be connected to the National Cycle Unit by the building of 250 Safe Links to Schools.

The government also plans to create a further ten Cycling Demonstration Towns in England, along with the first Demonstration City, targeting the pro-cycling message at three million more people.

Ms Kelly said: “The results of both Bikeability and Cycle Demonstration Towns are hugely impressive and prove that by providing the right facilities and support more people are willing to get on their bikes.”

Existing Cycling Demonstration Town Darlington has seen the proportion of children cycling to school quadruple under the initiative.

Today’s launch is also backed by the Department of Health, forming part of the government’s soon-to-be-published anti-obesity strategy.

Health secretary Alan Johnson added: “We know that children and young people need to be moderately active for at least an hour every day. While schools are successfully increasing the amount of sport and other physical activities pupils take part in, it is essential that young people do more beyond the school gates.

“Cycling or walking to and from school is an excellent way to keep active as well as helping to install a culture of exercise for adult life.”