Some savvy planning at Mother Teresa School in Harrison resulted in more than 170 students, parents, carers and teachers riding bikes to school for National Ride2School Day last week. Not only that but daily rider numbers have more than doubled since. So, how did they do it?
"We were keen to make an impact on the day and get lots of kids riding," explained Assistant Principal Craig Hart. "We wanted parents and students to realise how easy it is to ride a bike to school and how fun it can be."
The school organised teachers to meet adult and student riders before school at two meeting points from where they could ride as a bunch.
"This was really effective in encouraging parents and children who don't normally ride to get on their bikes. They felt safe, they had someone to follow and it was fun. Once they do it once they're more likely to do it again," said Hart.
The school also gave free sponsored drink bottles to everyone who rode and Pedal Power organised for the Fact BMX team to visit the school and do a display.
"There was a real festival atmosphere at the school and the Fact BMX team were awesome. Not only did they perform some amazing tricks, they talked to the kids about safety and shared some other wider messages with the year 5/6 students about following your dreams," said Hart.
Even before Ride2School Day, Mother Teresa School implemented an incentive scheme to encourage higher cycling rates. Every time a child rides to school, they receive a raffle ticket, from which winners will be drawn at the end of term. The prizes include helmets and other cycling gear donated by local businesses.
Next term they are thinking about establishing a riding club. One or two mornings a week, a teacher or parent will meet cyclists at a meeting point and, just like on Ride2School Day, guide riders to school. The only concern is that the growth in numbers will put further strain on the school's limited bike facilities.
"We only have a couple of bike racks so we need to look at building better infrastructure to cope with what we hope will be a continued growth in the number of children riding to school," said Hart.
That's where Pedal Power can help. Project Manager, Stuart Jones, said the organisation can help schools source funding, suppliers and support for cycling projects.
Photo: Craig Hart with Eli, one of the youngest Ride2School participants.