Kids learn bicycle safety
Learning the correct skills early can help young riders stay safe. It can also make them better and safer drivers later in life.
In early September, Wahgunyah Primary School students aged nine to 13 had the chance to learn the right way to ride.
Instructor Glenn Clarke is a former Olympian and Commonwealth Games cycling gold medallist. He works with Road Safe North East helping primary school teachers deliver a six-week training program, part of the Victorian Government BikeEd scheme.
Each year Mr Clarke visits between 25 to 30 schools and talks to more than 2,000 students in the north-east region.
With a trailer load of bikes and simple teaching aids, he shares a lifetime of cycling knowledge and helps kids learn to stay safe on two wheels. The program includes a classroom component, physical skills development and on-road practice.
Students learn and practice on an activity course that can be set out in a space no bigger than a netball court.
The bike education trailer stays at each school for one week. Qualified teachers from each school deliver the program content for the following five weeks.
Robbie Allen is the Road Safe North East board member in charge of young driver programs. For almost 40 years he was VicRoads’ regional road safety coordinator.
Mr Allen is passionate about youth education and believes there is a strong link between safe cycling and good driving habits.
“To be a good rider the kids have to have the skills to handle the bike, so a component of the course is balance and control of the bike,” he said.
Mr Allen believes the most important learning happens under supervision once students and teachers hit the road.
“Young kids on bikes have no fear – they take risks. Put them in a paddock, put (up) some jumps and they don’t worry about looking what’s coming, they just look at the jump and get over it,” he said.
“Putting them on the road – at an intersection or roundabout – they have to understand that there is a risk there. That is why we particularly like on-road training under supervision.”
Mr Allen also believes that teaching children to avoid risky behaviour early can have real benefits later in life.
“The age group 16 to 19 is when the real risk taking happens. If you wait until then to try and educate them it is a bit late. The sooner you can educate kids and get them to understand risk the better. So starting at nine or 10 with the BikeEd stuff is a good introduction to get them to understand,” he said.
BikeEd is normally taught to students aged nine to 13. This year the principal and teachers of Wahgunyah Primary School made it possible for every student to learn and practice their bike skills on the BikeEd activity course.
Bike education is not compulsory in Victorian schools. There is no equivalent program in the NSW schools curriculum.
Learning to ride a bike can give kids their first experience of real freedom, but while the new found independence can be wonderful, it is not without risk.
Students trying to keep in a straight line.