28 August 2017

Exercising freedom for ACT school kids: as easy as riding a bike

| Anne Treasure
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The Australian Cycling Promotion Foundation has announced that sales of children’s bicycles have hit a new low in Australia, leading to concerns that fewer Aussie kids are riding bikes and getting enough exercise to ensure long-term health and well-being.

The ACT Government provides cycling education at selected primary schools, but many ACT school children miss out on that important childhood rite of passage: learning to confidently ride a bike.

Cycling advocacy organisation Pedal Power ACT wants to see cycling education programs introduced in all schools so every ACT primary school student can have the opportunity to experience the benefits of riding a bike.

Pedal Power ACT Executive Officer John Armstrong says that many ACT schools lack investment in active travel infrastructure and programs.

“Riding a bike is the best way for children to get incidental exercise while enjoying the freedom of transport under their own steam,” said John.

“Evidence shows that school-supported programs like curriculum-based cycling education, and the Ride and Walk to School program helps ACT school children to enjoy the benefits of an active lifestyle in a safe and supported environment.”

Sales of children’s bicycles reported by the industry fell 22% in the decade to 2017, from a high of 492,000 in 2007-8, to 382,000 today. These are the lowest figures since 2003-04, when 431,000 children’s bicycles were sold.

“The Australian Cycling Promotion Foundation believes that the declining sales are a simple indicator that we need to do more to make walking and cycling a real option every day for our children,” spokesperson Stephen Hodge said.

The Physical Activity Foundation’s Ride or Walk to School program has proved successful in increasing rates of active travel among school children in the ACT, reports the Foundation’s CEO Lucille Bailie.

“Children enrolled at a school participating in Ride or Walk to School were more likely to use active travel, with an average of 67% of students in participating schools using active travel at least once a week, compared to 44% in non-participating schools,” said Lucille.

“Kids need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day and choosing a form of active transport – cycling, scooting, skateboarding or walking to get to and from school can help nail some or all of this target.”

“The Physical Activity Foundation advocates for all kids to be active every single day and the initial results of our Ride or Walk to School evaluation show a really positive trend, which we’re hoping to see continue.”

Pedal Power ACT and the Physical Activity Foundation agree that starting early is the key to forming life-long habits, and school is the perfect environment to introduce exercise as a lifestyle choice.

“Setting kids up with good habits around physical activity and normalising bike-riding as a form of transport is essential if we want to improve the health of the wider ACT population,” said John Armstrong.

“Physical inactivity is a huge problem at any age, and we should be addressing it at the school-level when children are young enough to start healthy habits and make active travel a regular part of their lives.”

Does your child’s school encourage kids to ride or walk to school? Is there appropriate infrastructure around the school to enable that? Or should schools be doing more to promote an active lifestyle for students, with the potential for introduction of cycling education across ACT primary curriculum?

Anne Treasure is the Communications Manager for Pedal Power ACT. She writes on bike riding in the ACT from the perspective of someone who rides mainly for transport.

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bryansworld said :

Another bonus of kids riding to school is avoiding the crazy bunfight that is the drop off area. People driving up on gutters and parking illegally to avoid walking twenty metres. Appalling.

Or blocking Mugga Way, while the parents sit there in the traffic lane (not by the gutter) not moving, waiting to turn the corner. Meanwhile the through traffic is stuck in the long line too, not moving. Last time that happened I sat there and sat there, the line not moving, and finally gave up and did a U-turn to escape. There were too many cars in front to overtake and a constant stream of traffic coming from the opposite direction. How is it allowed to block a main through road like Mugga Way?

Another bonus of kids riding to school is avoiding the crazy bunfight that is the drop off area. People driving up on gutters and parking illegally to avoid walking twenty metres. Appalling.

Elias Hallaj2:36 pm 30 Aug 17

Nice article with excellent points and a good reminder about the importance of regular physical activity for parents. I grew up cycling to and from school. I didn’t do it every day but enough times each week so the habit stayed with me for most of my life. It’s actually a good way to stay fit and save money at the same time. With five kids now though it’s much easier to throw them all in the car each morning to get to school and work. We do some cycling occasionally on weekends but I’m hoping we might all cycle to school together one day when the youngest is a bit older (she’s still only five and still not very confident on two wheels).

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