Bikes in Schools
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.”