Fun initiative has kids ditching the school bus for bikes

Fun initiative has kids ditching the school bus for bikes

Studies have shown that when students walk, ride, scoot or skate to school, they arrive more energised, alert and ready to learn.

The Department of Health recommends 60 minutes of physical exercise each day, an increasingly important message as reports paint an alarming picture of a sedentary, screen-obsessed generation.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2019 found that 25% of Australians aged 2-17 in 2017-2018 were either overweight or obese. This further increases the older Australians get – with 67% of adults being either overweight or obese in the same period.

Fortunately, governments, schools, communities and the private sector are working hard to address this issue.

In March, an annual initiative will see more than 350,000 students across Australia ditch the bus ride and go to school the healthy way.

Bicycle Network’s National Ride2School Day, which falls on Friday 19 March 2021, is Australia’s biggest bike riding party and the peak of the Ride2School program which works to help children get their 60 minutes of daily exercise by riding a bike to school.

National Ride2School Day is a free event open to all primary and secondary schools in Australia. Schools that register for the day receive a resources pack including posters, promotional material, stickers and a count sheet to tally the number of students who ride to school.

Ashley Brehaut is a PE teacher at St Leo the Great Primary School, which will be participating in the program.

Brehaut said the school fluctuates between 15-25% active travel participants – around 25 riders/scooters/skaters/ and about 30 walkers.

“We find there is a huge benefit in reducing the traffic around the school and keeping students safe,” Brehaut told The Educator.

“They are also more alert after being active on the way to school. We have even had parents meet up before school which has been a huge part of growing our school community”.

Brehaut offered some advice to students who are thinking about riding to school for the first time.

“Riding to school, being active on the way to school is beneficial for education, health and building confidence in the students,” he said.

“As long as it is done in a safe manner, there really are no safety concerns”.

Bicycle Network General Manager of Public Affairs Anthea Hargreaves said participation numbers in 2021 could receive a boost from the increased interest in riding during coronavirus when shops around Australia sold out of bikes.

“If you got a new bike or dusted off your old one during 2020, it will love to get a ride on National Ride2School Day,” Hargreaves said.

“Ride2School helps break down the barriers to active travel, with schools in the program reporting more than double the national average of students who ride, walk, scoot and skate to school”.

And participating students won’t just be doing it for themselves. Many schools are also fundraising for World Bicycle Relief to send specially designed Buffalo Bicycles to villages in Africa.

Buffalo Bicycles give children in developing countries a way of getting to school safely and quickly. Without access to bikes many children miss out on an education or can be put in risky situations by riding to school.