Fifty new cycles and helmets for everybody - Whangarei's Hurupaki School students are well equipped to get on their bikes with the opening of the school's new bike track.
The 500-metre track opened on Friday and principal Rob Posthumus said the children, teachers and wider school community were ecstatic over the track, which is designed to get children cycling more and reduce child obesity rates.
The Bikes in School programme was started in Hawke's Bay and is run in Northland by Bike Northland, with support from Whangarei District Council and a range of businesses.
The programme provided 50 bikes for Hurupaki School, helmets for all the children, training for them on how to cycle safely, and support to build the track. Ms Posthumus said the school jumped at the chance to be involved in the programme when approached by Bike Northland and she was very pleased that it did.
"It's something that's going to benefit the children at the school and the wider community.
"It's a very good track and the children are very excited about it. There's been a fair few kilometres covered on it already," she said.
"It's not just for the school though, with the whole community able to use, it, but the only proviso is it's got to be cycles only, no go-carts or anything else thanks."
Bike Northland spokesman and Whangarei District Councillor Stu Bell said since the programme had been running in St Mary's School in Hawke's Bay it was one of the few schools nationally that had seen a reduction in child obesity rates.
"So it works in reducing childhood obesity and getting kids healthier. Kids just love to cycle, so we provide a safe place for them to do so," Mr Bell said.
"It fits in with the Whangarei District Council cycling strategy and cycleway expansion that should provide ways for children to cycle to school safely."
Mr Bell said that between 1990 and 2009 the average time biked by New Zealand's 5 to 12-year-olds had fallen from 27 minutes a week to just seven minutes and one of the aims of the programme was to get more kids on bikes to reverse that trend. Fonterra supplied many of the helmets and Adventure Brands, in association with Regent Cycles, provided the bikes at a very good rate, he said.
Raurimu Ave, Ruakaka, Otaika Valley, Onerahi and Ohaeawai schools also have tracks supported by the Bikes in Schools programme, while St Francis Xavier, Kaurihohore, Waipu and Te Kopuru schools will follow soon, Mr Bell said.
"Beyond that, we've got another 10 schools keen to take part. It's a great programme."