Can ALL cyclists benefit from cycle training? 

Yes, according to research by the University of Salford. 

Cyclist training is valuable to all, not just the unconfident – everyone could have something to learn.  The research, commissioned by BikeRight!, shows that by providing progressive levels of cycle training many riders would not only feel more confident on the roads but would cycle longer distances, cycle more often and feel safer in traffic - no matter what their current level of experience and skill.

The research, conducted in Greater Manchester and consisting of a combination of a web-based survey and a series of focus groups with three categories of cycling – utility, traffic-free and sporty - aims to contribute to an understanding of the barriers to the take-up of adult cycle training and to develop recommendations for communication strategies to boost take up and increase cycling levels. 

This aim is further supported by the additional objectives of improving understanding of the physical and psychological barriers to cycling, to identify issues in current cycling promotion including imagery, terminology and segmentation, and to develop recommendations for communication strategies that will encourage adults to access cycle training courses.

Dr Graeme Sherriff, from the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU) at the University of Salford, comments on the findings:  “Whilst cycling offers many benefits, relatively few people cycle to get to work, education or the shops.”

“Cycle training is one response to a lack of confidence in cycling in traffic and its provision could overcome this significant barrier. Communicating this effectively to a range of audience is a challenge,  and this is what we set out to understand in the focus groups."

”Liz Clarke, MD at BikeRight! adds: “Cycle training enables cyclists and would-be cyclists to build skills and confidence that better equip them to cycle in current traffic conditions rather than expecting them to wait for traffic-free cycle highways to be rolled out.”

“What’s more, whilst cycle training is important in building skills and confidence so that more people feel able to cycle on the road, a parallel issue is the behaviour of those who already cycle. It is not necessarily the case that confidence or experience equates to a good standard of cycling.”

The research also found that men tend to report higher levels of confidence on selected challenging situations that separate those with cycle training from those who don’t.  43% of those with Level 3 advanced training are very confident turning right at a busy junction, whereas only 13% with Level 1 training are. Similarly relationships can be observed for other challenging situations such as making turns on multi-lane roads, and using a busy roundabout.The report highlights the different perceptions of groups of cyclists towards cycle training and makes recommendations about how training can be packaged and communicated to different types of riders. 

“One theme which came from the research was that cycle training must be communicated in a way that demonstrates it as one measure amongst many. It, along with driver education, infrastructure improvements and traffic reduction were all cited as key ingredients to be included in future support and development for cycling.” Sheriff added.

The report also highlights the importance of terminology, which is useful intelligence for organisations and public bodies who are providing cycle training. The term ‘cycle training’ was seen as ambiguous and not particularly engaging, with people preferring terms such as ‘urban skills’ since they more closely relate to the experiences of the cyclists and the content of the training.

A copy of the full report can be downloaded from here

Communicating cycle training 2014