Let’s put the brakes on banning bikes in schools

5th October 2018 at 00:00

There are myriad obvious anti-social behaviours that a campaigning headteacher might wish to crack down on to improve the life of a school and its surrounding environment.

But targeting cyclists seems an unusual approach. Yet a number of heads are attempting to ban this mild-mannered cohort through making cycling into school too restrictive to bother pedalling.

For instance, at Stanley Park High School in Carshalton, South London, pupils now need to display a school issue number plate to bring their bikes into school. The school justified the move on safety grounds.

It makes you wonder why these draconian measures have been imposed on an activity that promotes healthy living and a concern for the environment. Have these heads had to sit in traffic jams on their way to work while bikes scoot past them on either side on one too many mornings? Any school that clumsily tries to discourage rather than encourage cycling is making a grave error.

Over the years, I have worked with a large number of pupils to encourage them into cycling; from the basics of teaching them how to ride a bike, to helping them to source a cheap set of wheels, to cycling with them as they plan their best route into school from home. And while the general benefits of cycling might focus on the environment or health, for these pupils, it is the independence that cycling brings.

Unfortunately, battle lines have been drawn up between cyclists and non-cyclists, and the positive benefits of the activity are being ignored.

I fear new, more ingenious ways for other schools to attempt to ban cycling without actually admitting that they are banning cycling: the wearing of lycra shall not be allowed on school premises. Talking about Geraint Thomas is strictly forbidden. Respecting the environment should not extend to doing anything about it.

Gordon Cairns is a teacher of English in Scotland


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