Starting young to build bike culture

As part of our Federal Election policy paper, Bicycle Network is recommending the federal government allocate $20 million per fiscal year to behavior change programs that provide young people with bike education, safety training and skill development. 

We believe this is integral to a well-rounded national bike strategy, and that motivating young people by increasing their skills, easing their concerns and highlighting the advantages of active transport is essential to building a happier and healthier population. 

Unlike previous generations who firmly believed the future belonged to cars, we now know that increasing rates of active travel is necessary to build thriving communities, boost health outcomes and reduce harmful emissions. 

Education and exposure at an early age is one of the most effective ways to impact behaviour change outcomes for the future, and should be considered just as important as infrastructure or legislation when it comes to building a more bike-friendly Australia.

Most (not all) Aussie kids learn how to ride a bike outside of school, with Mum or Dad happily spending hours steadying and encouraging their kids through the learning process before proudly witnessing them wobbling off on their own two wheels. 

And in some schools (not all) this learning is boosted by bike education programs. But a lack of formalised bike education in Australia means that while many young people use bikes for recreation, very few ride for transport purposes, such as school or work travel.

Though most people know how to ride, many do not build habits or learn important road safety behaviours that will keep them pedalling into the future. 

Furthermore, bike education programs are notoriously underfunded by state governments and often lack the support needed to make a large-scale impact.

Yet the results speak for themselves...

Bicycle Network's Ride2School program takes an holistic approach to behavior change by not only offering bike education sessions, but also helping map out the safest routes to school, overcoming physical barriers like lack of bike parking and addressing current behaviours and attitudes toward active travel within a particular school community. 

Between 2019-21, the program worked with over 300 schools in Victoria, and those who worked closely with Ride2School saw close to a 20% increase in active travel rates during that period. 

Similarly, Ride2School's MIND.BODY.PEDAL initiative – that focuses specifically on addressing active travel barriers for teenage girls – saw a 29% increase in active travel among participating students in 2020.

On top of this, the program helped nearly 1000 schools around the country celebrate the simple joy of riding on National Ride2School Day.

Despite these statistics, wide-spread benefits of programs like this are hinded by a lack of federal funding.

We need to start playing the long game with bike culture!

This is why we're calling on the federal government to allocate $20m per fiscal year for behaviour change programs that provide young people with bike education, safety training, and skill development, and allocate a nominal percentage of the national sport and recreation budget to fund pilot programs that aim to increase bike riding participation.

By providing bike education at a young age, we can foster a generation of Australians that are familiarised with the diverse benefits of active travel, and are motivated to enjoy an active travel lifestyle as they approach adulthood.

Behaviour change funding is one of Bicycle Network's five recommendations in our 2022 Federal Election Policy Paper.

You can learn more and download the full submission here.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.