Today, the average Kiwi kid aged between five and 12 bikes just seven minutes per week. Back in 1990, that number was 27 minutes.
The number of bicycle trips between home and school and vice versa is fewer than 3.1 million each year. In 1990, it was 7.2 million.
Bikes in Schools aims to reverse that trend.
Launched at St Mary's Primary School in Hastings in February 2010, the scheme has now expanded to 25 schools around New Zealand.
Bikes in Schools provides safe, accessible and replicable cycling environments for primary school children throughout New Zealand. Already, it's making a demonstrable and cost-effective impact on health and education performance for the children who are in it.
The Bikes in Schools package includes a fleet of new bikes, a bike helmet for every child, combination of riding, pump and bike skills tracks, bike storage facility (where needed) and a bike coach to introduce the programme and teach basic riding skills. The cost per child is approximately $150. All the bikes and helmets are owned by the school and remain on the school property. The tracks are built within the school property. The storage facility (eg. converted shipping container or bike shed) is also owned by the school.
This package can be complemented by a Travelwise Safe School Travel Plan (in Auckland) or other local Council school road safety programmes, and also a cycle skills training programmes from a range of different providers.
The Bikes in Schools initiative means that all of the children have regular access to bikes. It's especially important in low-decile schools, where bike ownership is very low (30%) compared to high-decile schools (75%).
"There are huge benefits," says co-founder Paul McArdle. "Children have got good at cycling, and suddenly they're good at swimming, or they're good at school work so it's just flowed on to all sorts of things."
Independent research by the Eastern Institute of Technology tracked the impact of Bikes in Schools at three schools for two years through testing, surveys and focus groups with parents and teachers. A final report was published in May 2013.
The three key findings from the report:
Parents and teachers across all the three educational facilities maintained a high level of engagement in the programme. Teachers continued to incorporate the Bikes In Schools programme into the 2012 curriculum.
Teachers reported many physical benefits including; increased physical fitness, motor skills and coordination. This was supported by the data collected, which showed an increase in estimated VO2max (a measure of aerobic fitness).
Data collected for each of the intervention schools, demonstrated that the percentage of obese children dropped from 2011 to 2012. This goes against the national trend, which has seen childhood obesity increase by 2% from 2006/7 to 2011/12.
Bikes in Schools are developing a sustainable business model that will enable them to scale up their impact. For more information visit the Bikes in Schools website.
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