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Voice of Scotland; YOU may never forget how to ride a bike, but too many of us forget when to use it, instead relying on cars. Children should be encouraged to cycle rather than depend on their parents to ferry them about, says JIM RIACH of Scottish Executive-funded agency Cycling Scotland. Here, he explains why... healthier scotland SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE.

Byline: JIM RIACH

PARENTS have understandable safety fears when children use bikes, but this is something schools are trying to address.

Every local authority has a travel coordinator to encourage kids to cycle to school. However, while 30 per cent of pupils say they would like to use their bikes, only one per cent does so.

It's a great shame that children are being denied the chance to experience the independence of cycling because parents are worried about their safety.

So developing safe routes, holding proficiency tests, improving bike storage facilities at schools and encouraging drivers to be more patient with cyclists will address many of the issues discouraging kids.

The training available in primary schools helps children to not only cycle more confidently but also to develop a road sense that serves them as pedestrians and as future road users.

Cycle training gives kids the skills to ride confidently - in fact, a recent survey found that 80 per cent of trainees felt the instruction made them more confident, leading to a 50 per cent increase in their journeys made over three miles.

Scotland's high-profile success at last year's Commonwealth Games also highlighted cycling as a competitive sport.

That success is also mirrored in the country's status as the number one mountain bike destination in the world.

The increasing popularity of adrenaline sports such as BMXing, also encourages more youngsters to get on their bikes.

We are hoping to increase travel facilities to skate parks and mountain biking spots to improve access for young people who want to participate.

There are also the health benefits. Twenty years ago, a significant number of kids cycled to school and now there is much evidence of the mental and physical health benefits that fresh air and exercise gave them.

Cycling is positive, being beneficial to both kids' health and the environment.

It improves their social skills, increases their independence - giving them a range four times that they'd enjoy if just walking - while making them more responsible and less reliant on parents for transport.

Moreover, a child with a bike is experiencing an integral part of childhood.

'Training at school develops confidence and road sense'

www.cyclingscotland.org
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 13, 2007
Words:364
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