Over 300,000 children in the UK are overweight, obese or severely obese. That’s according to the national child measurement programme (NCMP), which surveyed children in 2017 to 2018 school year.
Specifically, the rate of severe obesity has increased significantly in two age groups: Year 6 children (aged 10 to 11) and those in their reception year (aged four to five). These continuing high rates have pushed the government to enforce a childhood obesity plan. The plan outlined bold actions such as banning the sale of energy drinks to children and setting a limit on price promotions of unhealthy food.
Child obesity, however, is everyone’s problem. Schools, for instance, need to step in as well. Besides making school meals healthier, encouraging pupils to ride their bikes to school helps them stay active.
While the decision of whether to allow their children to cycle to school lies with the parents or guardians, schools can still take multiple steps to ensure cycling safety and encourage pupils to bike to school:
1. Set a clear cycle policy.
Set clear policies on how pupils should ride their bikes to school. These include wearing safety gear such as bike helmet and high-visibility clothing and dismounting once students have entered school premises. Even if the average primary school journey is only 1.5 miles, it would also help the parents and students if you provide training and recommendations on how to follow the Highway Code on the way to school.
With a school’s clear cycle policy, parents may feel more secure letting their children bike to school.
2. Offer safe cycle training.
A third of children in primary school cannot ride a bike, according to a Keep Britain Tidy survey in 2018. Parents’ lack of time to bring their children to parks is one of the top reasons many children haven’t learned how to ride a bike. You can bridge that learning gap through a cycle training programme.
There’s Bikeability, a government-backed programme that aims to teach children safe cycling. It teaches a range of skills, from basic balance and control to independent cycling on busy roads. If your council doesn’t support Bikeability, there are private companies that can help conduct safe cycling training.
3. Plan bicycle trains.
Similar to a walking bus, a bicycle train offers a safe, fun way for pupils to cycle to school together. Ask for volunteers who can accompany children; one adult for every three to six cycling children is recommended. Also, before starting the train, make sure every child has undergone a Bikeability programme or any basic safe cycling training and volunteers know the rules of road cycling.
Another reason many children don’t cycle to school, even if they know how to ride a bike, is many parents worry about road safety. Bike trains are a good way to assure parents their children take safe routes.
4. Provide secure bike shelters
It pays to invest in secure bike shelters for schools. This way, children and their parents don’t have to worry about bikes getting stolen or being damaged by the elements. Also, if it’s possible, provide lockers or any other storage options for children to keep their helmet, high-visibility clothing and other safety gear.
By making cycling to school easy and convenient, you encourage children and their parents to consider it as a good alternative for getting to school. With biking as a regular activity, children will be more alert, energised and ready to start a day of learning. It also helps them gain and learn a measure of independence.
Above all, cycling to school helps children stay active. Along with eating healthier and more balanced meals at school, riding a bike every day is a good way to keep children at a healthy weight.
If you want to start with installing cycle shelters in your school, feel free to give us a call today.