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New report recommends improvements to cycle routes for children

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Alice Sanderson, November 14, 2018

Transport charity Sustrans have this week said that almost half of the UK’s cycling routes are inaccessible and unsafe for a child of 12 to use.

The safety benchmark that the UK government have set is that a route must be safe for a 12-year-old.

Despite this benchmark, Sustrans say their report shows that more than 7,500 miles of the National Cycle Network is inaccessible to young users, those with mobility issues and the less physically active, due to traffic, poor surfaces and too many barriers.

The report, titled ‘Paths for everyone’, was commissioned by Sustrans as a review and an independent audit of the UK’s cycle network. It classified 42% of the network as being “very poor”.

Sustrans’ long-term goal is to make the network “safe for a 12-year-old to use on their own” by being traffic free, but the group’s chief executive Xavier Brice said that currently “there may as well be a ‘no entry’ sign on their local path”.

Improvements needed

The charity has recommended several improvements, including:

  • Introducing better surfaced, and wider, paths
  • Improving accessibility by removing or redesigning 16,000 barriers
  • Directing all routes onto quieter routes and off busy and fast-moving roads
  • Improving safety at rail and road junctions
  • Doubling the number of paths that are away from cars to 10,000 miles (from 5,000)

They say that these improvements will cost £2.8 billion, but would increase the number of users from 4.4. million to 8.4 million.

Jesse Norman, Cycling and Walking Minister, said: “The National Cycle Network is a familiar sight for many, and a great asset for cyclists and walkers across the country.

“This report shows that more needs to be done to make it fully accessible, and that’s why earlier this year the government dedicated £1 million to support initial work repairing and upgrading sections of this popular network.”

While the UK government has promised £1m to the routes, the Scottish government has committed £7m towards the development and maintenance of paths in Scotland.

Better infrastructure is key

The minister has previously said that in order to make the UK a place where a 12-year-old can cycle safely, “infrastructure is absolutely part of it. The lesson of many, many cases is better cycling infrastructure – better road infrastructure – helps to bring in new users but it’s not by any means the only part of the picture”.

He said that cycle training is also important: "Bikeability is really important, actually teaching kids how to use a cycle safely and effectively on the road, teaching them good manners and good practice as well as signalling."

Spokesperson for First4Lawyers, Andrew Cullwick, says: “It’s great to see the government are acknowledging that more needs to be done to make cycle routes safe for children.

This report shows that access to cycle routes for children is not up to scratch, and doesn’t encourage children to cycle.

“First4Lawyers want to help more youngsters get out on their bikes, while also encouraging cycle safety, which is why we’ve launched our design-your-own helmet competition for primary schools around the country.

Key Stage 2 pupils can design a helmet for the chance to win a brand new bike in time for Christmas, plus a 3D print of their design on a helmet.”

You can read more about the competition and download the information pack on our cycle safety website. The deadline for entries is Tuesday 27th November.