We wanted to find out more about people’s attitudes toward cycling in Navan. So who better to ask than the group who cycle the most – schoolchildren!
When we started looking at how to make cycling in Navan safer, more enjoyable and easier, we thought about how it is right now. Of course, we have our own views, but these are from the viewpoint of experienced cyclists. While we’re confident cycling in traffic, we know that’s not the case for everyone. And apart from being safe, it’s also important for people to feel safe. So we started looking for information about how safe children feel when cycling.
The folks over at the Green Schools programme (part of An Taisce) are way ahead of us. They’ve been running school surveys for a number of years. So there’s already a good data set from schools participating in the Green Schools programme.
Getting to school in this way is not only good for children’s bodies and minds but also good for their planet and our communities. When children get out of the car, they get to experience the world around them, learn about their local community, interact with their friends and get to spend more time with their parents in a stress-free environmentAllison Phillips, Cycling Development Officer, Green Schools
The survey has been running for several years, and captures information such as how children travel to and from school, whether they participate in walk/cycle to school events, and how they feel about their school journey.
Here’s the results from one school in Navan, from 2014-2016.
Interestingly, when children are asked how the prefer to travel, the results look quite different.
So, children prefer to walk or cycle to school, but they mostly walk and sit in a car. We decided to investigate further …
Why don’t people cycle?
It turns out we’re not the first people to ask this question!
In 2019 an organisation called Sustrans performed a huge assessment of cycling in the UK and Ireland, with their Bike Life survey. This report contains a huge amount of useful information, including this nugget:
That’s perhaps not surprising. Safety is regularly cited as being the biggest barrier to cycling. But the bike life survey dug deeper, looking for other barriers that prevented people from cycling.
This got us thinking about some of these other factors. How far are people travelling? When they arrive, is there somewhere to park their bike securely? Will the bike be soaking wet when they come back to it in the afternoon?
So safety is a huge barrier to cycling. And the answer to this is pretty simple: build good quality, safe cycling routes.
Build it and they will come?
What if we spent years building a safe cycle network and then nobody used it? As we saw earlier, there are other factors that prevent people from cycling:
- How far is it to school?
- Is there a secure, sheltered bike parking space when I get there?
- Do my friends and peer group cycle too?
So we asked some of these questions too.
So far, so good?
We started by contacting every school in the area. We followed up by sending a link to the survey to every secondary school.
Unsurprisingly, cycling isn’t the top of everyone’s agenda right now, but we’ve already had over 300 responses.
Here’s who we sent the survey to:
- Beaufort college
- Coláiste na Mí
- Loreto secondary school
- St Patrick’s classical school
- St. Joseph’s Mercy Secondary
Did your child receive the survey? If not, please mention it to your school!
In January we’ll be sending a survey to all primary schools, and hopefully by the end of the month we’ll be able to share some results!