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HOW CAN WE ENCOURAGE TODAY’S CHILDREN TO BE TOMORROW’S BIKE RIDERS?

12 March 2020

We are all too familiar with the current concerning trend of rising childhood obesity, decreasing childhood physical activity and rates of children riding to school. But how can we break this trend and get children back on their bikes?

Build a pump track before a bike path

At the 2019 Australian Bicycle Summit in Melbourne, Sgt Brett Barnes, State Coordinator of NSW Police Bicycle Training and Coordination Unit and passionate advocate for building and designing dirt and pump tracks suggested that we consider “building a pump track before a bike path to get kids active”.

Kids view their bike as a source of fun

We only have to cast back to our own childhoods and for many of us, a bike was a source of fun, we explored our neighbourhoods with our friends, we raced each other and we climbed the tallest hills to roll down.

While constructing a network of safe, connected and convenient cycling infrastructure such as shared paths is still very important, we need reminding that kids view their bike a source of fun rather than an environmentally friendly method of transport, a way to reduce congestion on our roads or a way to get the recommended daily 30 minutes of physical activity. 

Encouraging kids to ride at a young age is vital

Encouraging kids to ride bikes at a young age is not only important for the future of cycling as a sport, whether that be BMX, mountain biking, road or track, but it is also important in supporting the next generation of adults who will have the confidence to ride to work, to the train station and to the shops using the growing network of Principal Shared Paths. So regardless of which is your favourite way to ride a bike, creating fun, as well as safe places for kids to ride, is something we can all agree is vital.

Bike parks are increasing in popularity in WA

In recent years, local governments across WA have shown increased interest in constructing these types of fun cycling facilities, ranging from cycle skills courses for the new riders to pump and jump tracks for the more adventurous riders. Some of which have become so popular that parents who initially drove their kids to their local bike park, have also reacquainted themselves with their bike as car parking spaces are limited. Could this even be a way to encourage parents back on their bikes as well as encourage more kids to want to ride their bikes to school?

Some of the good examples around WA include:

  • Shepherds Bush Reserve, Kingsley (Skills and Pump Track)

https://www.joondalup.wa.gov.au/place/shepherds-bush-park-2

  • Balyarra Park, Karratha (Pump Track)

  • Pitstop Playground, Banksia Grove (Skills Course)

For further inspiration

What if some of the bike paths to our schools looked something like this example from Arkansas, USA? How many more kids will be begging their parents to ride to school?

And fun routes don’t have to be just for the kids. In 2013, Vancouver installed some “whoopdeeoo” bike ramps on their bike paths as part of its bike to work week to bring back a bit more fun to the commute to work.

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