Glendale Primary School in the northern suburbs of Perth is, probably like many other primary schools around town, nestled into quiet suburbia surrounded by quiet streets, parkland and ovals. One look and it’s clear: this location is pure bliss for anyone keen to ride to school.
Which is why it wasn’t a surprise that the bike parking area was filled to the brim with all sized, shaped and coloured bicycles on our recent visit to the school to teach bicycle skills. Or was it? The PE teacher Tanya, who had previously invited us to run the course, said otherwise. Usually not that many children ride to school and it was the fact that the she had organised the training that suddenly everybody rode to school. We like it!
Interestingly our visit was targeting the years 4, 5 and 6 how to ride safely wouldn’t have been unusual. But the racks were STACKED with bicycles and even the younger years, who didn’t even participate in the bicycle classes, were riding to school. All because they heard about the training.
So why is it even necessary to do bicycle education at school when everybody is already riding? Firstly, it is necessary because usually kids aren’t riding to school. The average distance primary school aged children travel from home to school is 4 kilometres or less. An easy distance to travel by bike. But by car it is a blip on the radar for any parent who needs to drive to work. And that’s the core of the problem. The short distance in which you can safely drop of junior at school is just a small diversion. Why not quickly do it and make sure they get where they meant to go?
The impact of riding to school is immense: a healthier, more engaged and alert student because they used active transport, a student who took ownership and responsibility of getting from A to B, a student who is a lot more familiar with their neighbourhood, understands the risks along the way and knows which ones to tackle and which ones to avoid.
Tanya is on the ball and two years after we ran our first bicycle education program through the City of Stirling, we were back with the goal to equip students with safe riding skills. Anyone can ride fast, but not everyone can ride safely. Being able to control the bike in difficult situations, being able to survey what’s around you and make decisions on speed and distance is key. Plus, games on bicycles, which teach and practice all of these skills are fun.
Glendale’s year 6 students looked familiar, just with longer limbs and yes, they did still remember the basics of fitting a helmet, mounting a bicycle and loved a good slow race. That’s a lie. Kids hate slow races. But being able to ride slowly and balance on the bike is a fundamental skill and that’s why we do it!
The bicycle training highlights that there are always a few kids – even in year 6 – who have never learned how to ride a bicycle. With the training they have the opportunity to do so with a coach by their side, which boosts confidence.
As the students bring their own bicycles to school the training also points a spotlight at the safety and maintenance levels of kids bicycles. Deflated tyres, rusty chains and faulty breaks are common and so are bicycles that have become too small for the child to ride on. All of these discoveries, whilst frustrating for students, are essential to unearth, point out and flag with parents. Riding safely also means having safe equipment and what better way to ensure this is happening by pointing it out?
We absolutely loved teaching the bicycle training and can’t wait to be back. For those who don’t want to wait for their school to organise a customised training can enrol their child into our upcoming school holiday workshop.