|This article relies on references to primary sources. (March 2009)|
Bikeability is the national programme for cycle training in England, Wales, and Scotland. The programme is purely voluntary - schools may sign up to host classes for children. Adults may also join classes. In England and Wales, the programme is administered by Cycling England. There, it is based on the National Standard for Cycle Training, a UK Government standard run by the Department for Transport and approved by RoSPA, Road Safety GB, British Cycling, CTC, Sustrans and Cycling England.
Bikeability is also a term for the extent to which an environment is friendly for bicycling.
There are three levels to Bikeability:
- Level 1 (red badge) covers basic bike handling skills and is delivered in a traffic-free environment, such as a playground
- Level 2 (amber badge) is taught on quiet roads but in real traffic conditions and covers simple manoeuvres and road sense
- Level 3 (green badge) covers more complex situations and equips the cyclist to handle a wide range of traffic conditions and road layouts.
Bikeability is an all-ages programme. The lower levels replace the Cycling Proficiency scheme, which was targeted mainly at children. Levels 2 and 3 correspond to the skills delivered by the US Effective Cycling programme developed by John Forester.
Training for children and adults alike progresses through the three levels. Schools training is often over four to six weeks, during normal school hours, starting off with control skills and progressing to on-road training but not necessarily reaching Level 3. There is no test. On completion children may be awarded badges, booklets and/or certificates.
This programme is now being delivered across the United Kingdom, usually with some form of government funding for training in schools and sometimes with subsidised or free training for adults.
Administration and management
Bikeability is administered by the Department for Transport. In order to be able to use the Bikeability name and to be able to award Bikeability badges, a 'scheme' must be registered by Cycling England. In addition to guaranteeing that its instructors are qualified National Standard Instructors and that training will be delivered according to the National Standard, a scheme must give evidence that it has appropriate insurance, child protection policies and risk assessment processes.
The Cycle Training Standards Board controls the standard of training of instructors and the standard of cycle training to be delivered to children and adults.
The Bikeability programme is also delivered in Scotland under the name Bikeability Scotland. It is managed by Cycling Scotland, and delivered by a combination of local authority officers such as Road Safety Officers, Active School Coordinators and volunteers.
In Sweden the term Bikeability is used to refer to "factors associated with bicycling and the route environment, route distance and aspects of the interaction between the bicyclist and the bicycle which affect the conditions of a specific trip. [---] Bikeability should preferably relate, in a wider perspective, to how these factors and aspects can interact with the perception and behaviour of bicycling for at least three different purposes: (1) transport; (2) recreation; and (3) exercise, as well as competition." (Wahlgren & Schantz 2011.).
In their view, the following different environmental aspects should be included as components of possible importance for the perception of bikeability in relation to active transport, such as commuting: (1) the means of transport – the bicycle; (2) the level of safety; (3) whether the route environment stimulates or hinders active commuting; and (4) the route distance and topography.
The rationale for that is that "the means of transport – the bicycle – relates to various aspects of the fact that bicycling represents an interaction between a human being and technology, in which the bicycle stands for a technological environment. The effort needed for transport per distance and elevation, the possible speeds and in what kinds of environment it can be used are examples of issues that can affect bikeability. The level of safety relates to traffic safety and other forms of risks, such as crime. Whether the route environment stimulates or hinders active commuting will most likely relate to a complex of environmental variables. The route distance and topography relate to issues of time allocation needed and acceptable levels of physical effort" (Wahlgren & Schantz 2011.).
These components can, according to the researchers, be viewed as a chain with four different links. Weakness in one link may be enough to break the chain, and thereby a bicycling behaviour will not take place. However, the characteristics of the different components might interact. For example, a perceived high level of traffic unsafeness may be acceptable if the route distance is sufficiently short.
The same Swedish researchers have studied the perceived levels of bikeability of active commuting route environments (level of traffic safety and whether the route environment stimulates or hinders active commuting) in the metropolitan setting of Greater Stockholm, Sweden, and claim, based on perceived route environmental profiles, that it is higher in suburban - rural areas than in inner urban environments (Wahlgren & Schantz 2011.).
Later the bikeability of the inner urban part of Stockholm has been studied (Wahlgren, L. & Schantz, P.). Findings from studies indicates that greenery and aesthetics of route environments are important for stimulating bicycling, whereas congestion in mixed traffic settings and exhaust fumes act as inhibiting factors.
- Wahlgren, L. & Schantz, P. 2011. Bikeability and methodological issues using the active commuting route environment scale (ACRES) in a metropolitan setting. BMC Medical Research Methodology 11:6
- Wahlgren, L. & Schantz, P. 2012. Exploring bikeability in a metropolitan setting: stimulating and hindering factors in commuting route environments. BMC Public Health 12:168
- Official website for England and Wales
- Official website for Scotland
- Cycle Training UK
- The Association of Bikeability Schemes