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How Can We Encourage More Young People To Cycle?

According to a recent poll conducted by the road safety charity Brake, children in the UK are being put off cycling because of safety fears. The survey asked 1301 school children between the ages of 11 and 17 about their opinion of cycling. 47% of the children don’t cycle because of their parent’s safety concerns, while another 41% of them believed that the traffic was too fast to cycle safely in. On top of that, 38% of the children asked believed that a lack of safe cycling routes was another reason for them to avoid cycling altogether.

With around half of the children asked not cycling at all, many are missing out on the positive benefits of cycling. Recently, the government has invested £374m into cycling with an aim to encourage more young people to get on their bikes and reap the rewards but with so many being put off, is the money going to the right areas?

There’s no denying that cycling is becoming more popular with adults but are children likely to follow suit? We talked with one teenager from Kent who explained that he would like to cycle to school but cannot because he never took part in a cycling proficiency (Bikeability) course whilst at primary school, so his secondary school has prohibited him from riding to school. Without having a badge, he’s unable to cycle to school. Of course, he could just take the course again but is it a matter of training or is a matter or regulating other road users?

Brake is calling for a 20mph speed limit to be enforced in urban area rather than focusing on training. The Guardian also ran their own poll about cycling safety for children earlier this month and the results were more in line with Brake’s ideas about safety than the governments. The results were remarkably consistent about how to make the roads safer for child riders: the vast majority of poll takers supported segregating cycle routes from road traffic with a clear division, including a raised kerb. Painted road sections or illuminated dividers didn’t score too highly either. When asked, it seems that most cyclists feel like a painted stretch of road wasn’t enough to deter motor vehicles from encroaching on cyclist’s territory – so perhaps the government should invest in roads with raised divisions instead of painting lines and sending kids on courses? Restructuring the UKs road networks might be a tall order, but perhaps the government should consider building more cycle routes through public parks and green spaces instead; segregation seems to be the go, especially for children.

In 2013, 35 pedestrians aged between 0 and 17 years old were killed on the roads in the UK, with 1,506 seriously injured. Nine of these deaths were cyclists with 381 of them falling in the ‘injured’ category. It seems that segregation or a slower speed limit in urban areas is needed to protect both cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Segregation is probably not going to happen and a lower speed limit will only be enforced in some areas, so how do we protect young cyclists and encourage them to get on the road? Safety courses can only do so much and until the infrastructure changes, the United Kingdom is consistently fall behind it’s European neighbours.

What do you think? We’d like you to write what you think should be done below in comments. How do we make our roads safer for younger riders (and older ones too!)? What needs to be done?

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