In the fall of 2016, the Green Action Centre in partnership with several organizations embarked on an ambitious and exciting new bike education pilot program with Seven Oaks School Division. Organized originally in late 2015 by Bike Winnipeg, the concept was initiated by a group of engaged stakeholders with the intent of developing a youth bicycle education program that could be adopted by schools province-wide. This initial meeting was timely, as Manitoba Public Insurance had also recognized a gap in bike training for children aged 9 to 14.
In February 2016, a working group of representatives from Bike Winnipeg, Manitoba Public Insurance, the WRENCH, and the Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) team at Green Action Centre was formed. Through this partnership, and with funding from Manitoba Public Insurance, the Bike Education and Skills Training (BEST) program was born. The program was developed in collaboration between all partners, with the foundation of the program based on CAN-Bike.
Early on in the process, the Seven Oaks School Division expressed strong interest in and support of the project. Though many other school divisions had also found value in the program, Seven Oaks School Division was chosen as the host school division for the pilot project, due to their smaller size as a school division and the direct engagement of upper administration. Without the direct support of their Superintendent, this program could not have gotten off the ground as it did. At an extremely rapid pace, the program and curriculum were developed, and approved in late August for program delivery in September of 2016.
What is the BEST Program?
Over the last several years, cycling has become a more popular form of exercise, recreation and transportation. Though there are more cyclists on the streets, most riders, especially younger children, do not have the knowledge, skills, or confidence to cycle safely. In particular, they lack knowledge on road rules, responsibilities as a cyclist, basic bike maintenance, and how to ride safely in traffic.
Due to this lack of knowledge and skill set, people of all ages have low cycling confidence and avoid cycling altogether, or they are cycling in an unsafe way. This pilot project aims to provide school aged children the knowledge and experience they need to safely ride to school and in their community, as well as the environmental and health benefits associated with active transportation modes.
The program was designed to meet the existing objectives of the Manitoba Physical Education and Health Education Curriculums for students in grades 4 to 8, through a combination of work in the classroom and hands on instruction in bicycling skills and knowledge outside of the classroom. A student having taken five years of training ─ grades 4 to 8 ─ would receive a total of 20 hours of safety training.
The Bike Education and Skills Training program is the first multi-grade, multi-year bike education program of its kind in North America. Further, the program is unique in that it relies heavily on on-road training components, with students actively engaging with real traffic and infrastructure conditions. Students learn, with the assistance of the BEST program coordinator and school teachers, how to properly ride in on-road conditions, learning valuable skills such as hand signals, shoulder checking, lane positioning, and more. The program also provides an on-road maintenance component, teaching students how to assess whether their bike is road worthy, what the parts of a bike are and how those parts operate.
How Does the Pilot Program Work?
The program was developed as a three-year pilot in a smaller sample size of schools, with four schools benefitting from the Bike Education programming and four schools of similar sizes acting as control schools. The program thus far has reached 700 students, and will be rolled out to four new schools in the spring, with a refresher course for the students that participated with the program in the fall. This will be repeated for three years, with assessment and expansion to be planned following.
The intent is to create a program that can be rolled out to schools across Manitoba, and planning for how to execute this is occurring presently. The committee’s hope is to see a program that is incorporated in every school across Manitoba that trains and prepares students from Grade 4-8 for safe and fun on-road bicycling. This is an exciting opportunity for Manitoba to place itself on the map as a leader in training youth on proper and good cycling behavior.
Evaluation is occurring throughout the program’s execution. Students and parents are given pre- and post-program surveys that review their understanding of bike-safety and knowledge, as well as their current transportation habits.
With the plan being to roll out this program province wide and potentially beyond, the program is currently undergoing development of content that will allow for these skills and education to be passed along to as many schools as possible quickly and efficiently. The direction so far includes train the trainer material, and a push to incorporate BEST program information and education into the phys-ed university-level curriculum. We are also reviewing the current curriculum after its first execution in the fall and plan to incorporate more material into it, including on-road emergency bike maintenance training, first time rider programming, and programming specific to children with physical disabilities.
This is an exciting opportunity that Green Action Centre is proud to share with Manitobans. We are looking forward to the spring as we roll out the program again to students, and especially looking forward to being able to provide this training to students across Manitoba. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org