Monday, 2 July 2012

Not cycling to school

Today, we visited a school.
An all-girls school.
We got a nice tour round it from a couple of students (c. 14 years old).
We saw a bike rack on the tour, and I asked where the other bike racks were (the rack we saw would have held about 12 bikes - maybe, just maybe, a few more than that).
I was shocked to hear the reply that we were looking at the only bike rack in the school!

This was not some little village school, but a large school in the centre of town - with over 1000 students.
Yet the 12-bike rack wasn't even full...

Of course, we asked our "student guides" why so few of the students at the school seem to cycle, and we got the answer that cycling isn't fashionable in a skirt, and almost all the students wear skirts (just a few wear trousers - I suspect mostly for religious reasons).
Later, when we met with one of the Assistant Headmasters (there are several, because of the size of the school!), she was surprised that the "student guides" had said that, and seemed quite encouraging about the prospect of our daughter cycling to school in a couple of years if she ends up going to that school.

Something is clearly going wrong here - a school officially supportive of cycling, yet having very few on-site parking facilities, and even less interest from the students. And to cap it all, the school is in a so-called "Cycle Town", where steps have been taken to encourage cycling through increased infrastructure (cycle lanes etc.) and (supposedly) education. Yet no more than 1% of the students at that school cycle (judging by the evidence of bikes on the school grounds).

One can only speculate as to what the real picture is.
Are, for example, the girls who might cycle predominantly the owners of "Mountain Bike" style bikes, which, I must admit, do not lend themselves to cycling in a skirt?
Are the parents of the students at the school (who are mostly fairly well-off) unduly worried about the safety aspect?
Is the desire of the girls to appear appropriately fashionable really so strong? - and why is cycling not considered fashionable?

Clearly, because the school attracts students from quite a wide radius (because of its academic reputation), cycling would be very difficult for some, yet many students live within 2 or 3 miles of the school (a great distance for cycling!)


  1. I hope the hunt for "the" school is going ok, I remeber it vividly. Harry will be cycling to the bus stop in September and then catching the school bus as I think it is good for him to help with making friends.

  2. the bus IS a good place to make friends, but as the journey to that school is only about a mile and a half (at most), it is difficult to justify Katya not going "under her own steam" - indeed, one of the few cyclists to the school cycles from the village just beyond where we live (the same cycle path runs near to our house).

    the main "school visiting" will be in September, and we expect to see at least 4 or 5 (including the girls school again) - then it is all down to Katya to get the required "standardised" score of 121 in the "verbal reasoning test" that makes up our local 11+ exam (they get two goes at it, different questions each time, of course, in October) - if she doesn't get the 121, then she might get away with 119 or 120, depending on how full everything gets.
    Else it is no grammar school (with or without cycling) for her, and that will be that - it will be looking for the "best of the rest"