Parents and teachers
The best time to learn to ride a bike is in childhood. The best place for children to learn is in a park or the backyard, away from traffic, until they have developed good bike handling skills and road sense.
Children have different levels of competency and parents need to decide what is appropriate for their children when learning to cycle.
Safety authorities recommend children aged under eight cycle only in safe off-road environments and children aged eight to 10 ride on roads only under adult supervision. Children aged eight to 10 can begin to develop better traffic skills and more responsibility but parents still need to frequently reinforce the need for care and the road safety rules.
Parents who want to teach their children to ride with traffic should teach children to:
- be alert for traffic
- stop and look both ways, scanning for traffic before entering the street
- stop at all marked and unmarked intersections
- always use hand signals.
- correct children when the safety rules are ignored
- teach children how to care for their bikes
- teach children to set cycling speed limits.
Children learn by example, so parents should also practise these rules.
Pre-teens and teens usually know the road rules and the need to take care, but tend to be impulsive and forgetful. Peer pressure can lead them into taking risks. Regular reminders for children to follow the rules and adults setting a good example can help.
Cycling in the curriculum
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 64% of children enjoy riding during their leisure time. Teachers can build on students' enthusiasm and knowledge by creating positive lessons such as units on riding bikes. These riding units can make a strong contribution to the syllabus at all levels and in all learning areas.
Health and physical education contains three strands:
- promoting the health of individuals and communities
- developing concepts and skills for physical activity
- enhancing personal development.
Cycling and cycling skills contribute to all three strands. Students will engage in elements of all of these strands while bike riding.
A Level 3 sourcebook module entitled Let's Go Cycling (PDF, 140 KB)* is available from the Queensland Studies Authority*. The module outlines in detail the benefits cycling can provide students.
Studies of society and the environment includes aspects related to cycling. Study areas include:
- creating a cycle map, which provides an excellent exercise in mapping, integrating students' knowledge of local conditions into a useful project
- bicycles as part of transport and communication
- bicycles and sustainability.
Five road safety curriculum modules are also available to teachers as part of the new Road Safety Matters Prep to Year 9 road safety education curriculum resource, available from both the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and Department of Education and Training (DET) websites. The Road Safety Matters resource was developed in partnership by TMR and DET and is founded on best practice road safety education principles.
The 'Year 6 + 7 - What about me?' module focuses on children's capacity to evaluate road environments, consider transport options and develop safe transport strategies, particularly when travelling to and from school. Key messages in cycling safely are explored in this module.
Ride to school challenge
The Ride to School Challenge is held in Bike Week each year. The aim is to encourage more students to ride to school. Prizes and incentives are offered. For more details contact Bicycle Queensland on +61 7 3844 1144a.
Below are some activity ideas for classroom teachers during Bike Week.
- develop future designs for a helmet or bicycle
- invite a bicycle education instructor to run a bicycle education course
- conduct bicycle safety and helmet checks — the local bike shop owner might be willing to demonstrate how to conduct a bicycle and helmet check
- examine how cycling can contribute to fitness
- develop local bike maps
- discuss the history of cycle safety initiatives such as bike paths and wide shoulders on roads
- investigate the environmental impact of increasing the number of cyclists and decreasing use of motor vehicles
- debate topics such as 'bicycles are an answer to our health and environmental problems'
- develop a 'position description' for a responsible rider
- develop progress charts on the cycling (or transport) patterns of students over the week
- develop a table comparing the different features and prices of bicycles and/or bicycle helmets.
Cycling to school
- improves children's fitness and self confidence
- makes children more alert at school
- is good for the environment
- reduces road congestion around schools
- is an economical way to travel.
The following information can help make cycling to school safe and enjoyable.
Cycling to school accompanied by a parent can be a great way to travel. It gives the child and parent time together and allows children to develop cycling and traffic skills.
Several schools are planning 'bicycle trains'. A bicycle train is a group of riders under parental supervision, travelling to and from school together. It leaves at the same time each day and takes the same route, picking up students along the way in the morning and dropping them off at their front gate in the afternoon. Usually the group is supervised by two parents, one riding at the front, one at the back.
A safe route needs to be chosen (or created with the help of your local council). Children riding with the bicycle train might also need road safety training.
Benefits of a bicycle train
- the building of friendships and the community
- adults can cycle with children on a roster to allow other parents to supervise children
- a larger group of children riding is more visible to motorists and therefore safer.
Children's ability to handle traffic situations increases as they get older. However, children can be impulsive and forgetful, and peer pressure can lead to risk taking. Regular reminders (and incentives) to follow the road rules, and adults setting a good example, help.
Children aged nine to 13 are eligible to attend a bike education program. Such programs give practical bike education designed to give children the practice and knowledge they need to be safe road users. The program is provided through schools and community groups.
Parents can help plan the route and do a practice ride with the student before his or her first ride to school. The best routes include bikepaths, quiet streets and bike lanes. Which of these routes can be used will depend on age and skills. Many local councils provide bike maps you can use to help route planning.
The local school might be able to map out safe routes to school with the assistance of the department's road safety advisors.
Crossing major roads should be done whenever possible at traffic lights or a school crossing. It is important to remember people riding bikes must get off and walk across pedestrian crossings.
Working with local authorities
Parents and parent groups can work with local authorities to ensure safe cycle routes to schools are provided or to make existing routes safer. The Safe School Travel (SafeST) program can help.
Sometimes there are simple actions the authority can take, such as providing shortcuts between residential streets or decreasing the speed limits on some feeder roads. Some safety measures will need to be included in longer term works programs such as traffic lights.
Nearer the school
There is often motor traffic congestion near schools where parents drop off or pick up their children. Schools can help students who cycle or walk by:
- ensuring drop-off and pick-up zones are separate to entrances used by students who walk or cycle
- locating drop-off and pick-up zones some distance from the school entrance
- encouraging parents to walk or cycle with their children instead of driving.
Facilities at school
Bike racks increase the security of bikes at school. Students need to remove accessories such as pumps and lights from their bikes to prevent theft. Schools frequently make the bike parking area out of bounds except when pupils are arriving or leaving. Many schools are installing bike enclosures that can be locked during the day.
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