Image: British Cycling

With new figures published today showing that over 1.4 million more children enjoyed the opportunity to ride their bike during the first lockdown in 2020, British Cycling has today hailed it a ‘landmark’ moment in the organisation’s campaign to help the country’s young people to lead happy, healthy lives.

The Active Lives Children and Young People Survey results showed that between May and July the number of children aged 5-11 cycling for fun or fitness increased by 18.4% compared to 2019, while cycling for travel to places such as schools increased by 5.6%. Over the course of the full academic year almost a quarter of all children surveyed (24%) had cycled in the past week.

With road traffic significantly reduced during the first lockdown and many families making the most of an increase in leisure time, cycling experienced an unprecedented boom in 2020 – leading to sales of bicycles surging and families across the country rediscovering the joy of family riding.

At the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020 British Cycling provided families with a daily activity to help them stay active and build their children’s cycling skills, using its interactive HSBC UK Ready Set Ride games and resources. The daily activities reached over 1.6 million families through the month-long campaign, with parents also given the opportunity to ask questions and receive top tips from Sir Chris Hoy.

In April the organisation provided additional support for families through the launch of HSBC UK Let’s Ride Local, a micro-site designed to encourage family riding through routes, tips and advice and games to keep the kids engaged. The site has now been updated with fresh content on riding in winter to support families to keep riding over the coming months.

British Cycling Chief Executive Brian Facer, who began his new role on Monday, said: “British Cycling has always said that the key barrier to preventing more kids from riding their bikes is the perceived safety of riding on the roads, which denies them the opportunity and freedom to ride from their own front door. In 2020 we witnessed a landmark shift and over the course of just a few weeks families suddenly felt assured and confident enough to ride together in their own communities, without the need to pack the bikes into the car and drive somewhere first.

“There are ongoing concerns about physical activity amongst children, which we know are currently being exacerbated by the inability to engage in organised sport through schools and community clubs. What this data shows us however is that simply changing the environment in which children live can have a transformational impact on their activity levels, helping them to develop vital independence and social skills in the process. As such, we support the Government’s ambition to make this a reality through ‘Mini Hollands’, low-traffic neighbourhoods and ongoing support for the Bikeability programme.

“As an organisation we are proud of the work which we’ve done to support millions of children to take their first pedal strokes, and while there is certainly more to do, these figures should give us confidence that the desire to get out for a ride burns just as strongly in today’s young people as in any generation before.”