Cycling advocate Liz Mikkelsen has written a new illustrated book aimed at getting children to cycle to school safely.

"The Cycle Train book is an attempt at spurring children, teachers and especially parents to overcome their fears by teaching safe road behaviour, and if volunteers can be found, establish a cycle train.

"Kāpiti Coast District Council has lately accelerated provision for young and old in our community, to make us safe when cycling either on separate off road pathways or lanes on busy thoroughfares.

"However parents are still doubtful about letting their children cycle to school."

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Liz, from Ōtaki, felt there was a need for the book.

The Cycle Train.
The Cycle Train.

"Before I did it I looked in the Ōtaki Library, the Paraparaumu Library and the National Library in Wellington and there's not a single book about cycling to school, or kids on bikes — there's giraffes or elephants on bikes — but not kids.

"I couldn't believe it so that was another part of why I wrote it."

A key reason for writing the book was simply her love of cycling.

"Many of my stories are about cycling. I went to the Horowhenua Writers Group for two years and had some of my stories published in books they did.

"I've also had an article published in a very old School Journal about my son, who was a bike courier.

"He did the pictures and I did the writing.

"They really loved it which was a great encouragement."

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It took Liz three years to create The Cycle Train which is aimed at nine to 11-year-olds.

Liz Mikkelsen with a copy of her book The Cycle Train. Photo / David Haxton
Liz Mikkelsen with a copy of her book The Cycle Train. Photo / David Haxton

"It's about a boy who decides he wants to start cycling to school but his friend is not so keen because his parents say it's too dangerous."

But then the idea of a cycle train is discussed and eventually everyone is cycling to school safely.

A lot was involved from creating the story, changing it, having it edited, illustrated, setting it out, and finally getting it printed by The Copy Press.

She also had illustrator Emma Weakley bring her story to life.

"I found her at the Paraparaumu Beach Saturday Morning Market.

"She was there promoting her own illustrating work."

For many years Liz had promoted cycling in the Kāpiti district including "asking the council to make it safer for our children to become independent commuters like we were when we were kids".

"The local group Kāpiti Cycle Action has through the years provided free advice to council officers."

She was pleased with various cycling initiatives, including a recent addition, a wide shared pathway from near Ōtaki shops to the beach.

"The shared pathway is like the French and Italian promenade where young people meet.

Already people are using it a lot.

"There's a blind girl who uses it every day for a walk.

"And people in wheelchairs are grateful to have such a smooth surface.

"The council has done a very good job for the community."

Liz's next book is about a cycle holiday trip she did with her children.

"I want to encourage people to take their kids on a holiday on bikes, not in cars — kids hate cars."

The Cycle Train can be purchased directly by emailing liz.ocean41@gmail.com