A recent study showed that cycling to work is an easy way to fit some exercise into your day and give clear benefits to your health. The regular cyclists in the study had a 40% lower death rate over the five years than non cyclists – and a similar reduction in rates of cancer and heart disease – even when all other factors like age, diet, weight and more were taken into consideration. If you missed it, find out more here.
That’s great, but why keep all the benefits for yourself?
With one in five 10-11 year olds now obese, we need to ensure we pass on the value of good nutrition and plenty of activity to our kids so that they reap the benefit of those healthy habits for decades to come. And a great way to start is by swapping four wheels for two on the school run. Several scientific studies have shown that children who actively commute to school a re fitter and more agile than those who commute by car. Cycling is also a great way to boost children’s self-confidence – I still remember the elation on my kids’ faces when the stabilisers first came off. What’s more, it’s something you can all do as a family and it doesn’t involve a single screen! Not to mention helping the environment along the way.
So, how many actually bike to school?
According to Sustrans the average primary school commute is only 1.5 miles, and yet 1 in 5 cars on the road during the morning rush hour are on the school run. And that’s not down to the kids – around half of those surveyed by Sustrans would love to cycle to school but only 4% are allowed to. When it comes to the whole UK, only 1-2% cycle to school compared to almost 50% in the Netherlands. No doubt some of that is because parents are dropping kids at school whilst on the way to work. Perhaps the parents should think about active commuting themselves, too? Others, understandably, may be concerned about the safety of cycling to school.
How safe is it?
The national stats from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) show that children only account for about 10% of all cycling accidents –which are most likely to occur if they are playing about, doing tricks or riding too fast. So the key is to ensure they have the right training, and are accompanied until they are confident. Many schools offer cycling proficiency classes – now known as bikeability classes. If your school doesn’t offer them, put a bit of pressure on them.
Also important is the right equipment – a good, well serviced bike and a new helmet at the very least. And finally choose a good, safe route. Check it out at the weekends, when it is quieter, to get your child familiar with the junctions and any potential hazards. Nothing is without risk, but learning to recognise and reduce possible dangers is a vital part of preparing for life. And making cycling (or walking) to school a habit to boost daily activity is another valuable lesson that will stand your kids in a s good stead as all the maths, English and science that they learn when they get there.