Four students talk about why bike riding make them feel good — and it's not only from all that fresh air and wind in their hair. They've also gained a real sense of purpose.
The students at Kowhai Intermediate School in Auckland are part of a cycle ambassadors group and are keen promote bike riding to their peers as a response to the city's transport challenges.
Melissa: "We all got this booklet and it was full of ideas on how to get more people into cycling."
Lily: "Because this is our main mission and I think it's important. When you look outside in the morning you see so many cars. I want to see more people cycling. It's an awesome thing to do, and it keeps you fit."
Māia: "It's better for the environment and it's better for me."
Leo: "It's more sustainable. There's a big traffic problem in Auckland so if we get more people riding in this generation it will help."
The students are working on ideas such as milo mornings in winter, and quiz events to test knowledge about cycling.
"The quiz is about educating the masses on how to stay safe, how to fix stuff on their bikes. If there's a competitive aspect to it, they want to try their hardest," says Leo.
Cycle skills training part of support system
Here's an overview of what the school has in place to support these students.
- The school is signed up to Auckland Transport (AT)'s Travelwise programme. AT staff help schools create plans and actions to support safe road use and reduce congestion around schools.
- Teacher Phoebe Fabricius is the school's Travelwise lead teacher. She organises a student group who run promotional events and road safety patrols, with a sub group focused on bike promotions.
- Phoebe talks to AT to schedule annual cycle skills training courses run by professional instructors (BikeReady Grade 2 courses). Each course is spread over part of two days.
- Some students also attended a Bike ambassador workshop, which upskilled them on bike maintenance and bike riding promotion activities.
Phoebe says the cycle skills training sessions are offered mostly to students in the Travelwise group. Ideally, it would be offered to all students, but there are challenges finding time in the school timetable. She says she's thankful that AT provides a specific staffer as mentor to help with courses and resources.
Year 8 student Melissa took part in last year's cycle skills course.
"We learned all the rules for riding on the road, what all the road signs mean and how to indicate — what you have to do when on the roads," she says.
Possible next step: talking to parents
"We did a big survey around the school. 261 children answered," says Phoebe. "We found there are several reasons why more students don't ride to school. One is their parents won't let them ride because of fears about traffic. Other students simply don't have a bike or a helmet."
The four students in this conversation say their own parents are supportive, though with degrees of caution. It helps that the school is close to a dedicated cycleway and some streets with traffic-calming measures, though there are busy arterial roads too. Route selection is important.
"My dad and mum have always been passionate about biking," says Leo. "We ride into the city and go mountain biking. My dad says we have this bike path close to the school, so I should make the most of it."
Māia says she started asking to ride when in primary school.
"My parents said it would be fine once I was in Year 7. So, I rode once with my brothers and once with my mum in the school holidays. The first two days of school my brother biked in with me."
So, while the students are planning how to promote bike riding skills and knowledge to peers, there is additional scope to see how this campaign flows through to parents.