Ready, set – ride to school

Two boys cycling to school in a bicyle laneChild’s play: riding to school helps keep your kids physically active. Photo: Eddie Barkla

Maybe it’s the free breakfast, but Ride to Work Day gets bigger every year. The good people at Bicycle Victoria wondered why the grownups should have all the fun. So now there’s Ride to School Day on Wednesday 12 March.

It’s actually part of a much bigger, year-round program designed to encourage kids to get more physically active. And, like Ride to Work Day, it’s a great way to try out the idea with a lot of other people.

If riding to school is a new idea for your children you’ll need to do some preparation before you pack their lunch and wave them goodbye. Start with their gear.

The bike, of course, needs to be road worthy. Tyres should be pumped to the correct pressure and they shouldn’t be worn or perished. Brakes should work. Pedals should not be cracked or broken.

Closely linked to pedals are shoes. Make sure they’re in good condition and the laces can’t get caught in the chain or wrapped around a pedal. I well remember times as a kid when I couldn’t get off my bike because my laces were caught. Luckily I was only embarrassed. I could have been badly hurt.

Scraped knees and elbows heal-a head injury is for life. So the most important bit of protective gear is their helmet. It should meet Australian standards (look for the sticker inside), fit well and be properly adjusted so it sits firmly on the child’s head.

Gear all checks out? Now which way are they going to go to school? Chances are the safest route will be quite different from the way you drive there.

Avoid busy roads and roundabouts. Make use of cycle paths. Use pedestrian crossings and lights to cross roads. Remember, kids under 12 are legally allowed to ride on the footpath.

Once you’ve chosen a route, test it out with your kids on the weekend. If they’ll be carrying a back pack, take that too to make sure they can manage it comfortably on the bike.

Of course, the traffic is different on a weekday, so it’s a great idea if you can ride to school with them. Good for you too.

Ride to School doesn’t stop after the official day. There are DIY programs for schools or the help of a Schools Coordinator. Check out www.ride2school.com.au to see how your children’s schools can get involved.

And remember to have fun too. See you on the road soon, God willing.

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