Parents of the St Augustine’s School Cycle Bus have been involved in several campaigns for safer school streets in Kenilworth and better infrastructure for cycling to school.

You can read more about the campaigns in the media articles below:

New school safety measures including 20mph zone on Beehive Hill, championed by Morag Jarvis:

Kenilworth parents win road safety measures and create ‘school cycle bus’ backed by Olympian Sir Chris Hoy:

Campaign to allow cycling in Kenilworth’s Abbey Fields:

Kenilworth youngsters suffer abuse after cycling through Abbey Fields as part of Cycle Bus scheme:

Open letter in Kenilworth Weekly News regarding the For Our Future Campaign:

Cycling in Abbey Fields requires a focus on our future

We can all agree that we’re very lucky to have Abbey Fields at the heart of our town. It’s a fantastic recreational facility that combines new with old: a lake, ruins of the old Abbey, wildlife, St Nicholas Church, a swimming pool, children’s playground and wonderful wild areas. Since the For Our Future consultation was released, I’ve seen a variety of viewpoints relating to cycling in Abbey Fields. Many of them are individual worries that somehow cyclists will be a menace to pedestrians. In my view, this can be a distraction; we really have to look at the bigger picture and, I’d argue, actually focus on our future and not our past.

To understand people’s concerns you need to understand who “cyclists” actually are. In the UK, they’re likely to be in a group considered “the fit and the brave”; we have woeful cycling infrastructure so they are pitting themselves against cars and lorries. If they’re riding defensively, it’s normally because of the dangerous environment. If they’re cycling somewhere they shouldn’t be, like Abbey Fields, it’s usually because there’s no safe alternative. Because of this, cycling’s modal share in Britain is a pitiful 2% (in the Netherlands, who were just as car-obsessed as us in the 1970s, it’s 27%). There’s a reason the Dutch have the happiest children in the world. 

Last month the Doctors’ body, The BMA, called for £20 per head annual active travel spend; Warwickshire County Council spent just 73p per head per year on cycling in the 2018/19 financial year.

Doctors, as we all need to, are looking at the societal benefits of people getting on their bikes. Cycling can have a transformative effect on our physical and mental health, as well as tackling poor air quality and climate change. It’s estimated that matching Dutch levels of cycling could save the NHS £1.6bn a year.

When my wife and I set up Warwickshire’s first school cycle bus, this was at the heart of our reasoning. We believe every child has the right to cycle to school, as many of the older generation in Kenilworth did. Except, our society has made it near impossible and potentially lethal for us to do; parents then feel safer taking their children to school in a car, which further exacerbates the road safety and congestion issues. At our school – just up the road from Abbey Fields – some 81% of children are driven to school each morning.

Each week, we take approximately 20 five and six year olds (accompanied by an equal number of parents and volunteers) to school on the cycle bus. We teach these children vital road safety skills, team work, awareness of other road users and reconnect them with their community and their environment. They arrive at school elated, with a sense of achievement and ready to learn.

The 4-mile route travels from one side of Kenilworth to the other and is difficult with the current gaps in the cycle network. Currently, we engage in civil disobedience and use the Abbey Fields path crossing East to West Kenilworth in the interest of children’s safety; cycling slowly and giving pedestrian priority.

Last week, we were verbally abused by a member of the public, who took issue at us cycling there. So unnecessarily venomous has the debate on cycling become that 5-year-old children are being exposed to anger and contempt from grown adults.

It’s estimated that in most places, 60% of people are “interested but concerned” to cycle. Perhaps not by coincidence, 60% of all journeys between 1 and 2 miles are made by motor vehicle. When you build new cycling infrastructure like a new segregated path in Abbey Fields, it’s the “interested but concerned” who use it. Imagine if we saw a meaningful reduction of car journeys; we will all reap the rewards of less congestion, better air quality and closer community cohesion.

The demographic of cycling will become broader. Cyclists simply become “people on bikes” and, because cycling is made safer, children, older people and less fit or confident people benefit. 

Just yesterday the World Health Organisation announced a child inactivity epidemic and I will not put my children in danger by cycling on the main roads or by encouraging them to lead an inactive life dictated by short car journeys.

If you care about the future of our town’s children, the climate and the quality of life of all Kenilworth residents, I strongly urge you to say that you support cycling in the For Our Future consultation.

Adam Tranter