Bikes in schools
Learning to ride
Sean Simon and Sarai Gerrard getting ready for a ride
When the bikes in schools program started in 2015, it was clear that the kids at Kaiti School were keen to ride bikes.
Kaiti School Principal, Billie-Jean Potaka Ayton “When the opportunity presented itself for a skills track at school we jumped at the chance to be part of it.”
Kaiti School was the pilot school for Bikes in Schools Programme in Gisborne. Schools who participate in the programme receive a bike and skills track within their school grounds, as well as bikes, helmets and a storage facility.
The new track and bikes were available from the start of term one in 2016, and an opening ceremony at school attended by staff, students and the mayor to perform the formal ribbon cutting.
“Contractors came to the opening ceremony, they were quite attached to the project by the end, with some of them having to work weekends to ensure it was ready before the start of school.” Says Ms Potaka Ayton.
Riding becomes part of the curriculum
Once school began, riding bikes became embedded into the schools culture. The education program is led by passionate cyclists, Anelia Evans and Katrina Duncan, and had an immediate impact on the kids. The school developed initiatives aimed at rewarding good behaviour and regular bike riding is now part of classroom physical education. Teacher aides were brought in specifically to assist with bike maintenance and have gradually taken over the skills training lessons.
A long term approach to riding bikes has been adopted from the first week of school. Helmet sizing, identifying parts of a bike and how to take care of them all part of a wider school culture to normalise good behaviours.
“We had to get rules and routines right from the very start, this included how to use bike stands and how to put bikes away properly in the cage for the next class”
From the early outset it was identified that 50 – 60% of students had never ridden a bike before, so goals were set to get all kids riding competently. There are three competency skill levels to evaluate student riding skill, catering for new riders who stay on the school track through to confident riders who are able to ride the city cycle paths. All teachers are committed to achieving their kids’ goals, whether it’s spending one on one time with level one students or checking routes for safety before riding them with students. Teachers are heavily involved with kids’ ongoing progress.
Term one goals:
- Bike care and safety
- Rules and routines
- Identify bike parts
- Basic riding skills
Term two goals:
- Kids set personal goals (progress to next level of skill)
- Ride on cycleways with a teacher around town
- Common courtesy (using your bell)
- Introduction to road rules (giving way)
Term three and end of year goals:
- Sustainability, understanding that cycling is a lifelong skill
- Classes based on riding for distance
- Riding under wet conditions and surfaces to develop awareness of different environments and safety of pedestrians.
Cycling initiatives can only benefit communities wanting a healthier and active lifestyle.
In regards to progress made so far Ms Potaka Ayton says “We thought it might take longer to ingrain some of the positive changes we’d hoped to see, but it has happened so quickly and we’re pleased to see behaviours like wearing a helmet normalised so fast.”
With an eye on the future, Ms Potaka Ayton says “We’re encouraging whanau to buy bikes for Christmas instead of Play-station’s and Xbox’s.”
Gisborne is a flat city. Perfect for cycling
Gisborne’s geography is tailor-made for learning to ride a bike, given that the city is flat with lots of wide roads.
Gisborne District Council and NZ Transport Agency are currently developing a separated cycleway as part of the Urban Cycleway Programme (UCP). The cycleway will have interconnected cycle paths and lanes that connect schools from Kaiti, Tamarau and Wainui to the City. The UCP will eventually connect to secondary schools on the central and western parts of town through the greater cycling and walkway network.
The UCP project has $4.3m in funds to complete infrastructure improvements by mid 2018.
Council Group Manager of Environmental and Regulatory Services Kevin Strongman says “Council and NZ Transport Agency are committed to providing the framework and infrastructure to get people active on bikes. It’s the grass roots work that the Bikes in Schools programmes do, that get the community to a place where they can take full advantage of the benefits.
Recently Eastland Community Trust have agreed to help further fund the Bikes in schools project with a grant of $200k.
For more information about upcoming cycleways projects check our website www.gdc.govt.nz