‘Bicycles seen more as a child’s toy than transport method’

Bicycles are increasingly seen as a child’s toy rather than a way of travel, suggests the Mary Immaculate College (MIC) research on young people’s mobility.

Brendan O’Keeffe and Alanna O’Beirne concluded bikes are seen more as something a child should master and know how to ride, but not to use for any specific transport purpose.

“The vast majority of children today possess a bicycle, but hardly any of them use it to cycle to school or to any of their weekend or leisure destinations. Our results have also shown that as children get older and enter their teenage years, they tend to abandon their bicycles — as age increases, ownership and use levels decrease,” they wrote.

The negative association between bicycle use and growing up is not unique across nine other European countries and six others including Australia Brazil, Israel and Japan.

But the researchers say Central Statistics Office data suggests that, unlike Germany for example, cycling does not grow again in popularity during adulthood.

Some of the other main findings in the study of Irish children, whose freedom of mobility was 12th out of 16 countries, were:

- 59% of primary pupils and 49% of second-level students travel to school by car.

- One-third of second-level students use school bus.

- For primary pupils, walking is the second most common mode of travel to and from school, as one-in-four go on foot.

- Less than 3% of primary pupils and less than 2% of second-level students cycle to and from school.

- Most children are allowed cross the road on their own from between the ages of seven and nine.

- Fewer second-level students own a bicycle than those at primary school (88% v 93%).

- Almost 60% of kids in primary school are allowed to cycle places on their own, and over 80% have cycled on main roads. This is usually allowed from around the age of 10.

- Over one-quarter of primary school children say they spend time playing outside after dark, most are 10 or older. But only 4% of parents of primary school children say they are allowed out after dark.

- Similarly, parents’ responses challenge the reporting by half of second-level students, who say they are allowed go out after dark.

Only in Italy are children less likely to be allowed go places alone within walking distance of their homes. And only Italians and children in Sri Lanka are less likely to travel home from school alone.

Ireland is above average for the proportion of children allowed to cross or to cycle on main roads.

In all other variables, Irish children’s mobility levels are below international averages.

‘Bicycles seen more as a child’s toy than transport method’


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