Bikes in Schools

The Tribune (NZ) - - SQUARE CIRCULAR -

Three Palmer­ston North schools are now get­ting their pupils rid­ing bikes thanks to a $150,000 boost from Palmer­ston North City Coun­cil. As part of the ‘Bikes in Schools' pro­gramme the Coun­cil asked for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from pri­mary and in­ter­me­di­ate schools and from those who re­sponded St Mary's, Ter­race End School and Long­burn School were picked to re­ceive the Coun­cil's con­tri­bu­tion.

The Coun­cil have supplied each of the three schools with fifty new bikes com­plete with new hel­mets for every child, a shipping con­tainer to store the bikes in and a se­ries of three bike tracks in­clud­ing a skills track with a se­ries of ob­sta­cles, a pump track that re­quires the rider to ‘pump' their bike as they ride around the track, and a perime­ter track within the school grounds. Every day time will be al­lo­cated so that each class can use the bikes.

Sandi Mor­ris, trans­porta­tion planner for the Coun­cil said the schools had to show a com­mit­ment to the pro­gramme. “Each school needed to be com­mit­ted to the main­te­nance of the bikes, re­plac­ing hel­mets when needed and keep­ing the bike tracks safe and well main­tained. Most im­por­tantly, the tracks must be kept avail­able to the gen­eral public out­side school hours.” Each of the schools re­ceived $50,000 and was re­quired to fund any dif­fer­ence. For ex­am­ple all three schools opted to use hot mix as the sur­face of their perime­ter tracks in­stead of the cheaper lime­stone so will need to cover the cost vari­ance. The schools have each been busy rais­ing ad­di­tional funds to as­sist in the com­ple­tion and delivery of the over­all pro­gramme. Thanks to a grant from BikeON Trust, Long­burn School has all three tracks com­pleted. Ter­race End and St Mary's Schools are await­ing fi­nal fund­ing con­tri­bu­tions to com­plete the perime­ter tracks, how­ever, they do have the Skills and Pump Tracks open for public use.

Sandi said that many chil­dren have never rid­den a bike and when it came time for road safety classes with the New Zealand Police and Sport Manawatu, a large chunk of time was spent teach­ing the chil­dren to ride the bikes be­fore they could teach the road safety as­pect. “The avail­abil­ity of bikes and tracks in the school and sup­port­ing ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme, will en­sure each child is taught to ride a bike in a safe en­vi­ron­ment from the time they start school. The sup­port­ing NZ Police and Sport Manawatu pro­gramme can then be more fo­cused on the NZ Road Code for Cy­clists and keep­ing these new cy­clists rid­ing safe in our road net­work”.

The chil­dren all want to ride bikes and this has many ben­e­fits such as rais­ing con­fi­dence and in­de­pen­dence, in­creased health ben­e­fits, chil­dren can cy­cle with older fam­ily mem­bers more of­ten and chil­dren can learn to man­age any risks in a safe en­vi­ron­ment be­fore rid­ing on the roads. “The child is also more fo­cused in class. Other schools through­out NZ have no­ticed many pos­i­tive changes in chil­dren's class­room be­hav­iour with the in­tro­duc­tion of the Bikes in Schools pro­gramme,” Sandi said.

Over the last twenty years there has been a de­crease in the num­ber of pri­mary school aged chil­dren rid­ing bikes. The ‘Bikes in Schools' pro­gramme which was de­vel­oped by Paul McAr­dle from BikeOn Trust, was de­vel­oped to help re­duce the de­cline.

“I also want to say a huge thanks to Chris Cob­ham from Avanti Plus,” Sandi said. “He gave the schools a great deal on the 150 bikes and hel­mets. Chris also of­fered to ser­vice the bikes free of charge for two years. He also went to great lengths to en­sure every pupil had the right sized hel­met.” Sandi said it had been a big project, but it was ex­cit­ing to see chil­dren who had never been on a bike out hav­ing fun and join­ing in. “As the tracks are open to public out­side school hours, it is im­por­tant that care­givers en­sure the chil­dren are prop­erly fit­ted with a hel­met, their bikes are safe for use, and the child is ad­e­quately su­per­vised when us­ing these tracks out­side school hours.”

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