24 September 2009

Cycling? Worse things happen at sea

Interesting debate at the Lambeth Cyclists forum about kids being told not to cycle to school, by the school, because it's 'too dangerous'.

The example there - reflected in many other schools up and down the country of course - is of the London Nautical School sports college. One Lambeth Cyclist popped in to ask about its cycling facilites, and was told the school doesn't want its students coming in by bike.

There were quite a few amusing and interesting responses. On the serious side, most remarked that it was strange for a school involved in physical fitness to prevent healthy activity. Some played devil's advocate and noted recent cycing fatalities on the busy (and definitely unsafe) access roads and roundabouts near the school and recognised that a school might not want to risk legal action.

Others responded that, according to how you interpret the stats, you could argue that walking to the school actually had a slightly higher risk of injury or death, never mind going by car, and so the school shouldn't encourage pupils to go by any means at all.

On the wry side, one correspondent remarked that a school founded because of the sinking of the Titanic in 1915 might be understandably risk-averse. Presumably 'Abide with me' doesn't feature strongly in the morning hymns. Another pointed out that a life at sea isn't exactly a Health and Safety shoo-in, either.

And as for me... as I suspect many of us have done, I've cycled past my old village primary school with a rueful smile. Everybody really did walk or cycle then, and now everybody really does go by car, and everybody really does say it's too dangerous for Ollie or Molly or Gemma or Jake to walk because of all the traffic...


  1. Not to mention a hospital in a nearby part of London which discourages cycling -

  2. Yes, it's another world. Several primary schools in this area don't have car parks at all. The teachers have to cycle as well as the children.

    Over here it illegal to stop a car near many schools between 8 in the morning and 4 in the evening. Not all schools are covered by this yet, but the numbers are growing rapidly and the intention is that it will be all of them.

    Meanwhile, life goes on. Virtually all children at both primary and secondary schools get to school by bike and no-one thinks this is anything but safe.

  3. There is a great chapter on this in the new American book Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes, called "Bringing Kids Back to Bikes." (It is the last chapter of the book, in fact). I heartily recommend that book for velo-nerds.

    Meanwhile there is a "Safe Routes To School" movement (and recent conference) in the US and some federal money for pilot programs, but there are also schools banning cycling to school. And, of course, blog discussion.


  4. National organization finds that bike-to-school bans are on the rise