It’s the school holidays in Liverpool and on the streets of Toxteth a group of young cyclists are putting their new found cycling skills to the test.
With Bikeability instructor Paul, they’re working through their Bikeability Level 2. That means getting to grips with riding in the safest position on the road, mastering turning into side roads and perfecting signalling their intentions to other road users. For many of the children, it’s their first time out on the roads, but with Paul’s expert guidance and support they’re soon high fiving each other to celebrate their success and new skills.
On the playground a smaller group take part in a Bikeability learn to ride session. Within the freedom of a traffic-free environment they’re learning to get going on their cycle, brake at the appropriate time and gaining the confidence to take one hand off their handlebars, to prepare them for signalling in the future.
All the young riders are taking part in Bikeability thanks to the Bikeability Trust’s Widening Participation Fund. The fund is supporting 44 projects across England which remove the barriers to cycling for children who wouldn’t usually learn to cycle. Almost £73,000 of funding was awarded to Cycle of Life, an organisation providing the catalyst for change in Liverpool. Led by Ibe Hayter, Cycle of Life encourages diverse communities to choose cycling by removing the barriers preventing them from cycling.
“A lot of young people would love to have a bike but they’re not confident on the roads, and they need to learn how to carry out basic repairs on their bike.” Ibe Hayter (left), Cycle of Life.
Project lead Ibe trained as a cycle instructor when he noticed there wasn’t any parents that looked like him cycling their kids to school. He said: “When I had children of my own, I remembered my own good memories of cycling from when I was young. I wanted my children to have that too, so I got them into cycling.
“But after a while my children asked to stop cycling. I didn’t understand the problem, it’s good for your health, it’s good for the environment, you save money, these are all the positives. But they said they felt like aliens at school. I got to the school gates and looked around and I was the only person who looked like me who was cycling.
“There wasn’t anyone else doing it, so at that point I did a cycle instructor course so I could train children myself. Cycle of Life was created to create a cycling environment. We’re training up instructors and getting people cycling around here.
“A lot of young people would love to have a bike but they’re not confident on the roads, and they need to learn how to carry out basic repairs on their bike.”
“I had so much fun during Bikeability, we did our Level 2. It felt brilliant being out on the bike.” Dahir, Bikeability rider.
One of the biggest barriers faced by Cycle of Life and the children they’re training is access to cycles. Just 47% of people over five years old have access to a cycle, meaning so many children who complete their Bikeability are not able to continue cycling after their session. It also means lots of children could miss out on the opportunity to learn to cycle because they do not have their own cycle to practice on.
Bikeability has partnered with a variety of cycle brands to supply fleet cycles to our providers to help them deliver cycle training to children who do not have their own cycles. Almost 200 cycles have been provided by Forme Bikes to nine projects who needed a fleet to enable them to deliver their project, including Cycle of Life.
Thanks to the Widening Participation Fund, more children in Liverpool will take part in Bikeability with Cycle of Life. Setting them up with the skills they need to cycle confidently on today’s roads. As well as learning an essential life skill, cycling will unlock freedom and independence and give children the tools they need to travel sustainably and live a more active life right into adulthood and beyond.
Ismail is one of them. He said: “I had so much fun, it was a brilliant time. I felt so skilled when my Bikeability instructor said I was good.”
Trainee Dahir completed his Level 2 Bikeability with Cycle of Life. He said: “I had so much fun during Bikeability, we did our Level 2. It felt brilliant being out on the bike.”
The Department for Transport and Bikeability Trust’s Widening Participation Fund has invested in £1.6 million in 44 projects across England that help remove the barriers to cycling. To help reach the government’s ambition to offer cycle training to every child by 2025, Bikeability is investing in projects that help children who wouldn’t usually learn to ride take part in cycle training.