Friday 17 August 2012

Cycling to school? You must sign here.

The Dark Ages have arrived. Tyneside's stoop is much lower than I had previously imagined. I knew we are obese, but we can't even see our own toes it appears. Even harder to understand how we manage to stoop at all, or manage to bury our heads in the sand.

Fallen flat on the face, into soft sand?

Road safety at its useless best
Road safety at its useless best - absconding responsibility
A recent situation report (June 2012) showed that some Tyneside schools are banning pupils from cycling and at another folks are made to sign a piece of paper (a contractual agreement)... meaningless as it is... to work hard at making cycling even harder than it already is. It can't be easy. Making something difficult that should be easy and pleasant.

Looks like heady head teachers sticking their heads in the sand. Ostrich approach to solving the problem: finding an answer which doesn't address the real problem.

Here's the contract. Take a deep breath before reading.

 = = = = = THE START = = = = =

Parents must sign and agree to the following:
  • Check on a regular basis their child’s bike is in the correct working order.
  • Check to ensure that the child is wearing their helmet whilst riding their bike.
  • Support the school with their views on cycling.
  • Ensure that their child has an appropriate lock which can be fastened to the cycle shelter structure.
  • Agree a route to school which is recorded on the contract.

Pupils must also agree to abide by the following:
  • Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • Agree to carry out an "M" check on their bike as taught on the bikeability course and report or repair before riding. The M check is a bike maintenance check.
  • Always cycle in a safe manner and use the skills they have learnt on the Bikeability course.
  • Cycle their route to school that has been agreed by their parent/guardian.
  • Lock their bike in a position which allows other users to access their bikes.

Whilst the school agrees to:
  • Provide a cycle shelter where pupils may lock their bikes at their own risk.
  • Report back to parents on pupils not tiding [sic, should read riding I'd think] safely and causing concern.
  • Reserve the right to withdraw permission for any child breaking the contract to ride to and from school.

= = = = =  THE END (literally) = = = = =

School heads are in the sand. You know, there might be ostriches at the DfmmT too. As at no-head HQ (DfmmT) - or is it a multiple head HQ (scary Hydra style) -  it's not so much about finding answers, it's more about asking the wrong questions to obscure the right answer. Or do they still believe - really - that they can convince everyone that they should walk or cycle? Or do they...? It's all just silly tactics, isn't it? Time wasting. Frantically action for inactivity.

Find the full (but mostly meaningless) report here:

As for the school report, nice to have it, but can someone give the head teachers detention please? They deserve it. They should have contacted the Cllrs and MPs and kicked up a fuss about children's right to cycle. There's an isolation cell at Gosforth HiHi an informant tells me. Send them there.

And make sure there are concrete floors. It's great how far LSTF money gets you.
Newcastle, Tankerville Terrace - crawling school run. Awful streetscape, everyone's "rushing" around, trying to get away...
Video No. 2 of how not to do it. Same sad location.
And here's how you do it. Assen, Netherlands. Contains people on bicycles. People are easy and relaxed, chatty and engaged.

PS the Tyneside school report can be supplied upon request. It's 8mb and pdf. DM me your email address on @katsdekker


  1. What the hell as the world come to? Sadly though this doesn't surprise me, one part thinks its to scare people off from such a "dangerous" activity and the other part thinks it's some legal ars$e covering for the school.

    Would be interested to know if they make parents who drive their kids to school sign a similar contract? It could include things like promising they won't double park outside the school gates, drive whilst talking/texting/tweeting/Facebooking on their phone, drive above the speed limit and that they understand the detrimental effect driving little Johnny to school has on him!

  2. If bike contract can mandate helmets that are not legally required then perhaps driving contract should also better the law. Require all parents to stay under 20 mph while in catchment. At least the latter has documented benefits.

  3. It's health and safety culture and risk management gone bonkers again, and is completely oblivious to the fact that cycling or walking to school is far safer and healthier for everyone than driving the kids there in a 2 ton cocooned bubble.

    How are primary schools kids expected to understand that crap? really it would be far far better to encourage them that cycling and walking is the healthy option.

    Schools and headteachers doing this should be named, shamed and forced to change their attitudes.

    I do agree with some of the stuff for parents though, making sure the kid's bikes are safe.

    I used to organise bike maintenance sessions during the Darlington cycling festival and was often shocked at the state of the bikes some kids had.

    These were often not parents who didnt understand or could not afford the money, but professional people with good managerial jobs who could not be arsed or were too tightfisted to put a tiny bit of time and money in, to ensure their kids were safe. Some of them used to come to us as we did it for free, as they were too tight to buy parts or pay a cycle shop. Usually the ones who were on benefits or on low pay were the most appreciative.

  4. Why not just get the parents to sign to say they wont accuse the school of being negligent if anything happens to child or bike when outside of school.

    What a child does out of school is none of the school's business but the parent's responsibility.

    I have never read such a twaddle of a contract in all my life.

  5. But... what happens if the parents don't sign this? Surely the school can't control a family's life and decisions outside school hours and outside the school gates?

    Perhaps a letter should be written to the head telling them that they should be nagging the council to make it safe for children to cycle to school, instead of scaring parents with rubbish like that!

  6. I’m no legal expert, but I would guess that the school has no authority whatsoever to enforce any form of contract on children cycling to school, or to prevent them from doing so. They could perhaps successfully argue that they have no liability, but that is a different matter. They could try to refuse cycle parking to non-compliers, but I suspect they would be on pretty thin ice legally if they did.

    Or, of course they could demand that parents of children arriving by car sign a similar “contract”:

    Parents must sign and agree to the following:
    • Check on a regular basis that their car is in working order – steering, brakes, tyres, lights all working and correctly adjusted
    • Check to ensure that the child is wearing their seatbelt correctly, and that smaller children are seated in and restrained by kitemarked child seats appropriate to the age/size of the child, correctly fitted to the car.
    • Support the school with their views on driving
    • Agree a route to school which is recorded on the contract.

    Pupils must also agree to abide by the following:
    • Always wear a seatbelt when riding in the car.
    • Whenever they see the speedo needle pass 30, shout “slow down Daddy/Mummy, slow down”.
    • Never get into a fight with their younger brother/sister in the back seat so that their parent is distracted from the important task of driving safely
    • Learn how to operate the windscreen-mounted GPS so Daddy doesn’t spend all his time looking at Tom-Tom instead of the road

    Whilst the school agrees to:
    • Provide adequate off-street parking for pick-up and drop-off so that parents don’t cause obstruction or dangerous conditions for other road users around the school
    • Report to the police any parents not driving safely in the vicinity of the school.
    • Reserve the right to withdraw permission for any parent to deliver or collect their child from school by car

  7. Once your child leaves the school grounds they cease to be the schools responsibility. I know this because schools often use this to side step getting involved in bullying when your child is on the way home.

    Once again, people who ride bikes are being discriminated against. Does the school make you sign a contract when your child walks to school or gets the bus?

    As for the maintenance side of things, we need to stop looking at bikes as unimportant toys. Having said this, I've ony just (20 minutes ago) bolted my daughters back wheel back on her scooter after my negligence allowed it to work lose and drop off! :)