Overview: There has been a steady decline in the numbers of children cycling to school over the last few decades in America (Emond & Handy, 2011) and Peters, (2016), UK (Department of Transport, 2013) and Ireland (O‟Driscoll, 2015; Woods et al., 2009). Over the same time period, cycling is recognised as the main mode of transport for school children in Denmark (Cooper et al, 2006) and Holland (Wagenbuur, 2011), two countries who have a structured cycle training programme in place for school children. The general fall in cycling levels has also coincided with an increase in childhood obesity with the WHO (2009) listing obesity and lack of physical activity as two of the five leading global risks for mortality. Confidence (Wegman et a, 2010; Ducheyne et al. 2012; O‟Driscoll, 2005; Trapp et al. (2011) and Lorenc et al., 2011) is a key factor in people cycling for transport but there is a lack of research into the impact of cycling training programmes on cycling for active travel, particularly within Ireland. With the evolution of the car as a main form of transport, children and adults attitudes have become less positive due to safety fears with the bike now seen more as a childrens toy than a possible form of transport. There is a lack of research on the impact parental attitudes have towards cycling and how to improve parent and childrens‟ confidence levels for cycling to be deemed a safe and viable transport option. Methods: This research was a quasi-experimental study with both intervention and control groups. This involved both quantitative and qualitative data collection from two locations, one with cycling infrastructure and one without. Quantitative data was collected from 631 primary and secondary children from 22 classes over five time periods. The intervention group also received five one hour sessions of cycling training where they were tested on eight cycling skills pre and post training. Qualitative data was collected from 270 primary and secondary school children at five time periods from 10 classes. Focus group discussions also took place with 14 adults over three time periods. Cycling tutors were trained to deliver five cycling sessions and were involved in focus group discussions immediately post training. Results: The results of this research indicate that on road cycling skills training has a positive impact on improving attitude and confidence levels for children and parents. Children stated cycle skills training improved both confidence levels „it was fun and improved my confidence‟; „I‟m not afraid any more‟ and also increased cycling frequency „I cycle more now because of training‟. Parents said „I‟d be more confident of them cycling now but it‟s the environment around them‟. This training improved cycling skills dramatically with general cycling skills improving by 62% and road skills by 83%. Children‟s confidence towards cycling to school increased by 7.5% and there was a 36% reduction in the fear of traffic at twelve months post training. There was a sustained improvement of cycling levels to school which was not affected by gender. Results indicated that the impact of on road training is more significant when delivered to primary school children. A lack of „safe‟ cycling infrastructure is often cited as a barrier to childrens‟ cycling levels. Infrastructure did positively impact cycling levels and confidence, but on road cycling confidence and childrens‟ cycling levels to school were higher in an area with no cycling infrastructure. This suggests that improving cycling skills and confidence through on road cycling training is more effective than providing safe infrastructure. Conclusion: The study found that improving children and parents‟ confidence levels in overcoming fears led to improved attitudes towards cycling and an increase in cycling levels. The delivery of cycling training improves confidence, but other initiatives are also needed to address other children and parent fears, particularly the fear of cars. Providing infrastructure does improve confidence levels, but to increase childrens‟ cycling to school levels, on road cycling training is of more importance than providing cycle friendly infrastructure. The funding of a progressive cycle training programme for primary school children could have a more substantial and sustained impact on cycling levels and motorists perception of cyclists than the provisions of cycling infrastructure.
|Publication status||Unpublished - 2017|