One of the bodies that appears about to be thrown onto the “bonfire of the quangos” is Cycle England. With it would go Bikeability, the peculiarly named body responsible (among other things) for what most people would recognise as the cycle competency test.
Whilst it is tempting to oppose any move that might divert resources away from cycling and to shout loudly against a cut that would reduce accessibility to cycling, it does seem difficult to justify the cost of providing cycle training to 200,000 children every year. The government department that provides the funding for the scheme is the Department for Transport, which has been forced to make over £600 million worth of cuts.
When you look at the competing interests looking to keep hold of their funding (including other cycle related projects) you can see why teaching children to ride a bike may not be a top priority. For instance transport bodies within the DfT include the Civil Aviation Authority, British Transport Police Authority and the Office of Rail Regulation. Clearly Cycling England is important but making certain that the aviation sector is appropriately regulated could easily be viewed as more central to government than cycling.
Learning to ride a bike, even more perhaps than learning to swim, should be a part of everyone’s childhood. It is, in many ways, a core competency. But is it the obligation of the state to provide this training or is the family the best place for these skills to be learnt and refined?
I remember being taught to ride a bicycle by my father and have fond (and painful) memories of the process. I can only imagine that my father remembers the process too as a special moment of fatherhood that he would not want to have missed out on. If Bikeability is cut then let’s hope that learning to cycle returns to the family and, at the same time, get’s parents back onto their bikes. As shown at last weekend’s Sky Ride London cycling is a great family activity and I don’t see any reason why that process should not start with the stabilisers and cycling lessons from parents.