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By Wigan Council | 01 December 2023 | TAGS: Cycling, Children and young people, Wigan

Children in Wigan have been discovering the joy of getting active on two wheels through a school and community-based Bikeability Balance programme for four to six-year-olds.  

Bikeability Balance uses fun games carried out on bikes with no pedals to give young children the basic balance and co-ordination skills they need to learn to ride a bike. 

Following a successful pilot, Wigan Council launched a school offer in September 2022 and saw 1,500+ children from 21 schools in the borough of Wigan receiving the training in the first 12 months. 

In addition to the training, 32 balance bikes and helmets have been donated to participating schools to support children to practice skills after Bikeability Balance sessions has been delivered. 

A representative of Woodfold Primary School said:  

“The children absolutely loved the Bikeability session. It was great to see the children growing in confidence with this skill and it tied to our Early Learning Goals.”  

Off the back of the success in schools, free community Bikeability Balance sessions started at Leigh Leisure Centre and Leigh Youth Centre in conjunction with Leigh Bike Library 

Children learn new skills and can loan a bike for up to two months to improve their skills with the council hoping to extend the offer to other parts of the borough soon.  

A parent whose child attended a community session at Leigh Youth Hub said: 

“The course helped my daughter ride her bike confidently and safely. The course was fun and engaging, using game-based activities to build her confidence to use a balance bike.

“Her confidence on using the balance bike had grown immensely and she couldn’t wait to practice some more. Fast forward 4 weeks, she can ride her own pedal bike unaided, confidently and safely.” 

It was back in March 2022, that the council identified that children (aged 4-6) in the borough were not receiving adequate cycle training and there was no Bikeability Balance training offer for schools. 

To address the issue, Wigan Council’s Walking, Wheeling and Cycling Activation Team recruited a Bikeability Balance specialist and created a plan to make Bikeability Balance training accessible. 

The team utilised the Mayors Challenge Fund to purchase a fleet of balance bikes and helmets and trialled a schools offer at three primary schools in Standish: St Wilfred’s, St Maries and Woodfold. 

More than 250 children received two 45-minute sessions in groups of 10 during the pilot in summer 2022, learning through games how to put on a helmet, starting/stopping, balancing, and coasting.  

The success saw Bikeability Balance brought under the wider schools’ cycle training offer with each participating school receiving a Dr Bike session and two free balance bikes and helmets worth £420.  

Wigan Council plan to build on their success by creating additional staff capacity to allow more schools to sign up for training and have already purchased more bikes to donate to schools. 

The Leigh Bike Library continues to stock balance bikes and in 2024 there are plans to deliver a minimum of 12 Bikeability Balance community sessions across a wider variety of venues.  

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