Cycling Proficiency Test
I saw a cousin from Manchester recently and asked them when was the last time they rode a bike. There was a pause and then he asked if an exercise bike counted? If so he’d been on one a few days ago. Not the answer I was looking for. Manchester doesn’t have a bike hire scheme, but even in London only a small part of the population makes use of the Boris bikes.
I often pass by a bike stand and notice those about to use them are tourists. Having talked to non-cycling friends I’ve heard various lame excuses. Some honestly admitted laziness and others safety concerns. The latter reason has gained a higher profile thanks to a recent Times newspaper campaign. It focused on the deaths of cyclists in London caused by heavy traffic, especially lorries. Unlike in cities like Amsterdam, which is very bike friendly, the cycle lanes in the British capital are not very well laid out. The one excuse that I remember most was from a friend who admitted that after failing his cycling proficiency test back in junior school he’d never had the urge to cycle again.
I’ve great memories of my proficiency test, as I passed with flying colours, my friend on the other hand is still recovering from his experience. It was back in the mid-1980s and everyone in his class had to participate in the test. His memories were a bit hazy but he described the main event that ended his interest in cycling. All the other kids had BMXs or bikes with straight handlebars, he on the other hand had a Raleigh bicycle that his cousin had lent him for a week. The bike wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Tour de France with its curved handlebars, and it was this (in addition to a chain that continually snagged) that led to his failure.
Due to other school work and household chores my cousin hadn’t had much time to practice and when he did he didn’t gain any confidence. He found it hard riding the bike in a crouched position and wasn’t helped by the front half of the bike. It was clear that his cousin hadn’t oiled it for some time and it was rather stiff. For whatever reason my friend had been unable to get some oil before the test, so that when he was confronted by a line of cones to weave around he hesitated. After his teacher started yelling at him he started pedaling himself forward. 20 seconds later he and his bike were in a heap, the majority of the cones had been knocked over, his classmates were roaring with laughter and his teacher was heading towards him with a bright red face. Not a happy time.
The test at that time was run by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and served as the basic standard required for cycling on British roads. This has since been replaced by the National Standards for Cycle Training, which is called ‘Bikeability’ in England. For those children about to start the test I’d encourage parents to do their best to help prepare them. Perhaps you could go with your bikes to a nearby park or relatively traffic-free piece of tarmac. We keep them pedaling.
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