More Wellington kids riding bikes

25 March 2015

In 1990, New Zealand primary school children were biking an average of 28 minutes per week. Today, it is less than 5 minutes per week - with many children not getting to ride a bike at all.

Atudents try out new bikes.

two students try out new bikes

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Wellington City Council is reversing this trend by becoming the first local body to fully fund and manage the implementation of Bikes in Schools projects at three Wellington schools. 

This will put more than 1300 students each year in the saddle, the most ambitious of all the Bikes in Schools projects to date. 

The Council’s Bikes in Schools initiative is based on a successful programme launched in 2010 by Prime Minister John Key.

Bikes in Schools gives students aged between 5 and 13 years the opportunity to master their cycling skills within the safety of their school grounds. They become more confident and competent on bikes through riding on a regular basis, and benefit from improved attitudes toward cycling and better physical and mental health.

West Park School, Karori West Normal School, and Holy Cross School were selected from a pool of 12 competing schools to pilot Bikes in Schools in Wellington. 

The three schools received a package of 50 bikes, helmets for every student, purpose-built tracks, bike storage, and cycle skills training. All this within the school grounds, with equipment that is valued at around $30,000– $45,000 per school. 
 
Student representatives talked to other students to find out what they wanted to learn and for ideas to make the tracks safe and fun. Council engineers designed the tracks, tailoring them to fit the school grounds, and managed the often complex construction.

Work started last year at the three schools. Holy Cross School will celebrate the completion of its tracks at an official launch on 30 March 2015. 

Local businesses also pitched in to help. When Holy Cross School asked for tenders to assemble and maintain the bikes, Bicycle Junction responded by doing it for free. 

Councillor Andy Foster, Chair of the Transport and Urban Development Committee, says the provision of bikes and tracks is an essential part of making Wellington a cycle smart city. 

“Over the last 20 years in New Zealand, the number of adults riding bikes has risen significantly, while there has been a dramatic reduction in primary school children riding bikes. The result is that many children do not have the confidence or skills to ride on Wellington streets, and are not able to experience the social and health benefits from cycling regularly.

“This initiative is one of the ways the Council is improving road safety throughout Wellington and making the city more cycle friendly. It joins other improvements, including cycle stop boxes at traffic lights (the green road markings that give cyclists a safer place to stop at the lights), the Tawa Valley Pathway – Ara Tawa (which was completed in May this year), and ongoing planning work for cycle ways across Wellington.”

“Council staff and I visited many of the short listed schools and were really impressed with their enthusiasm for the project, the potential for fitting exciting cycling facilities into their grounds, and in to their curriculum.” 

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says that Bikes in Schools is one of several positive contributions toward encouraging transport choices.

“Bikes in Schools means Wellington students will be healthier and more independent,” says the Mayor. “Modern cities offer children opportunities for daily exercise and recreation. This is essential to challenge increasing obesity.

“Wellington aspires to be the Mountain Bike Capital with its award-winning Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park. Riding a bike on the flat is a pre-requisite to enjoying the adrenaline-filled tracks so close to the city.”

Wellington City Council is following the progress at these three schools and looking at ways it can be extended to more schools in Wellington.