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Nurseries across London have received donated bikes to curb childhood obesity – prompting the boss of a nursery group to urge Mayor Sadiq Khan to give every child in the capital a bike to use while at nursery.
With one in five children in the UK starting school either overweight or obese, non-profit organisation Bikeworks donated 56 bikes to the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) which runs 37 nurseries.
The bike donations led LEYF Nurseries’ chief executive June O’Sullivan to write to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan asking him to give London's children under five access to bikes.
Warning of a crisis in nurseries, with some children physically unable to cross their legs due to being overweight, the CEO's letter to Sadiq Khan stated: ‘In your Better Health for All Londoners strategy document you ask for our help and, in particular, how we can make London a healthier city for babies and small children.
‘We therefore wondered whether you think there is some viability in setting up a campaign to encourage every small child in London to have access to a bike – whether at home or at nursery?
‘There are 616,000 children aged under five living in London and we would therefore be sensible to aim for a target of 100,000 bikes across the capital. Would you be willing to front the campaign please?’
With obesity affecting child health and leading to heart disease, cancer and diabetes, June O'Sullivan believes giving a young child access to a bike would be a smaller price to pay than what would be spent by the NHS treating obesity-related health conditions.
June O’Sullivan said: “We believe that to overcome childhood obesity the issue should be tackled at an early age, especially when new research suggests people’s unbalanced eating habits develop as early as nine months of age.
“With weight problems in children unacceptably high, especially among low-income populations it’s imperative that we, as London’s largest nursery provider, take action to help address the country’s biggest public health crisis and what better way than to learn how to ride.”
LEYF Nurseries across London has so far received 56 free bikes from Bikeworks, a not-for-profit organisation in Bethnal Green. It has promised to donate a further 32 more bikes to the nursery group.
On 7 February, a spokesman for LEYF Nurseries said the chief executive was awaiting a response to the letter from the Mayor's office.