Winnipeg Bike Train
Cycling to school with confidence
In October 2016, members of a Winnipeg bike train invited people from city council, the school division and police to ride roughly 3 km to River Heights Middle School. The bike train consisted of five 12- to 13-year-old boys who pedalled mountain bikes on their local roads.
“The grownups found the route sketchy,” said Jamie Hilland, a parent of one of the boys and an organizer of the bike train. “We start with a bike lane for one block. Then it disappears onto a bridge where we’re forced onto three lanes of traffic. Then, there are four lanes. It’s technically residential, but busy.”
“When you get politicians to ride along with you,” Hilland added, “and show them the challenges kids face just trying to get to school, it can be a really powerful learning opportunity.”
Hilland works at the Green Action Centre in Winnipeg and is the chair of the national Active and Safe Routes to School Program, which aims to get more children walking and riding. The bike train – a group of kids, and often some parents, who find added safety in numbers on a ride to school – came about not through his professional endeavours, but because his son wanted to go to a school farther away from their home. “I just had my dad hat on,” Hilland said.
He reached out to friends via social media about the ride. He also charted a route, checked it out and then made sure all the riders knew the right skills for the road, such as the proper hand signals and lane positioning. All the boys wear helmets and have front and rear lights. Hilland and the boys ran the train for seven weeks this past fall.
The train departed for school once again this past April, but things were slightly different. “I only rode with them for a few days,” Hilland said. “Then they said, ‘Yup, we can ride on our own.’ They were feeling confident, doing lots of shoulder checking and using hand signals. I had confidence they could do it on their own. So, now they’re independent. They do their own bike train.”