Attending a Ride2School Day is a good reminder of why there is so much goodwill towards getting kids on bikes and the barriers that still exist to making it happen.
This year we marked the day at Bowen Road Primary School in the northern Hobart suburb of Moonah. We have started working with the school to increase the number of competent and confident riders, as well as increasing their knowledge of road rules and the skills they need to get to school.
It’s a classic example of a small Tasmanian primary school which has most students living nearby and should be a standard example of a place that students can get to by walking, riding, scooting or skating.
Before Ride2School Day its “HandsUp!” count, when children are asked how they got to school that day, was about 27% for active travel means such as bicycle, walking or scooter.
We know we can get that higher if the school works with us to better equip children to ride and work with parents to allay safety fears.
We also work with councils and state government where we can to improve the physical routes to school. Bowen Road, for example, is just a couple of blocks from the Intercity Cycleway and while the footpaths leading to the school could be wider and more accommodating, they are still a safe connection.
Over the other side of the Brooker Highway there is a pedestrian bridge with a staircase but it doesn’t have a side ramp to allow bicycles and scooters to be easily wheeled up and over. There is space in the road reservation to convert the stairs to a ramp so everyone can cross, including people using mobility aids, but that of course would cost a reasonable amount of money.
Our Ride2School program works with school communities to identify the most comfortable routes to schools and promotes those through signs at the school and newsletters.
What Ride2School Days show is that while parents support children to ride they are worried about safety, with many dropping children off at or near the school by car.
The other barrier can be that parents don’t feel confident riding so instead of riding with their children to get to school, they drive them.
And then there are the perennial barriers of people thinking they don’t have the time to ride and children not having access to a working bicycle.
Bike riding joy
Ride2School Day seeks to highlight how much fun it is to ride a bike. At Bowen Road we had our smoothie making bike, which only mixes up the smoothie when someone is pedalling. This is always a favourite and even Minister Elise Archer and Clark MP Madeleine Ogilvie got into the action. We also received a visit from Clark MP Sue Hickey and Glenorchy City Council's Deputy Mayor Bec Thomas.
We also ran the slow race, which encourages children to concentrate on balancing and turning the bike and set up a bike check station to make sure tyres were pumped, wheels were secured, chains oiled and brakes working.
But for most of the students the joy was getting to ride around the school grounds for 30 minutes with their friends.
The more serious side of the day is the workshops we undertake at schools, not just on Ride2School Day but throughout the year.
These help children improve their bike handling skills by teaching them to check their bikes are working before riding, how to turn tightly, balancing, braking, using gears and stopping. We also throw in some road safety information about rules for people riding bikes, including helmets, bells, and lights.
For Ride2School Day we delivered 6 workshops to all classes from grades 3 to 6.
Schools across the state take part
While not every primary school that marks Ride2School Day registers with us, we received 32 sign-ups from around the state, including from two secondary schools which don’t technically fit into our program but are still welcomed.
- Longford Primary
- Port Dalrymple School (George Town)
- Ringarooma Primary
- Riverside High `
- South George Town Primary
- Star of the Sea Catholic College (George Town)
- Swansea Primary
- East Devonport Primary
- Hillcrest Primary (Devonport)
- Miandetta Primary School
- Mountain Heights School (Queenstown)
- Port Sorell Primary
- St Joseph’s Catholic School (Queenstown)
- Strahan Primary
- Ulverstone Secondary College
- Westbury Primary
- West Ulverstone Primary
- Austins Ferry Primary School
- Bowen Road Primary
- Corpus Christi Catholic School
- Cygnet Primary
- Glen Huon Primary School
- Howrah Primary
- Illawarra Primary
- Kempton Primary
- Mackillop Catholic College
- Montagu Bay Primary
- Mt Nelson Primary School
- Princes Street Primary
- Rokeby Primary
- St John’s Catholic School (Richmond)
- Waimea Heights Primary