Bicycle Education and Skills Training | BEST
An ambitious project to give Manitoba children the skills and confidence to get around on their bikes
Cycling education for students is crucial, as most parents are themselves infrequent bike riders who may not know the safest ways to ride or how to do keep them maintained. BEST is a multi-grade, multi-year bike education program based on CAN-BIKE cycling courses, and the first of its kind in North America. Students in grades 4-8 are taught how to ride on-road, learning valuable skills such as hand signals, shoulder checking, lane positioning, and more. The program also includes maintenance, teaching students to assess whether their bike is road worthy, what the parts of a bike are and how those parts operate.
What is the BEST Program?
History of the BEST Program
Initially proposed as a concept to interested stakeholders in December of 2015, the Bike Education and Skills Training (BEST) Program has rapidly evolved into a very successful and innovative school based cycling program that is in high demand from school divisions across Winnipeg.
After an initial meeting of interested stakeholders in the fall of 2015, a steering committee was struck, consisting of those organizations willing and able to provide funding, in kind support, or relevant professional advice. Four organizations agreed to be a part of this initial steering committee – Manitoba Public Insurance, The WRENCH, Bike Winnipeg, and Green Action Centre. Staff from the Seven Oaks School Division also sit on the steering committee as the BEST program host. The committee has been responsible for developing the program and curriculum, collecting and evaluating data, and managing its coordination.
The BEST Program is unique among Bike Education programs in North America in several ways. Firstly, the program aims to integrate Bike Education into the physical education curriculum of Winnipeg schools, so just as you would learn to play basketball, you learn to ride a bike safely on roads in Winnipeg. Secondly, the BEST Program is much more than a “pylons in playgrounds” program as many traditional school based bike education programs are. Our program aims to provide real life skills training, riding on roads with vehicles present. Learning these skills in a real world environment will help establish the confidence necessary for these children to see cycling as a viable method of transportation in the future. Lastly, the BEST Program is multi-year, for grades 4-8 inclusive. Prior research demonstrated that multi-year programs are necessary to achieve any measurable increase in cyclist confidence levels, and mode shift towards sustainable transportation.
Since the pilot began, more than 5,000 students in 13 Seven Oaks schools have participated in the BEST program. A “train the trainer” curriculum has also been developed with the intent to have physical education students at post-secondary institutes trained in cycling education as part of their education.
To date, the program has been a real success, with many anecdotes of children learning to ride, gaining the confidence to use their bikes in their neighbourhood, and also the freedom of being on a bike with their classmates in the community. Preliminary evaluation has proved successful in improving student knowledge and skills, as well as suggesting that the program is leading to a much greater likelihood of children biking to school. We are hopeful that we will see positive growth in the number of students in Winnipeg receiving training in the BEST program in the years ahead, as well as an associated rise in the numbers of students using bicycles as a method of sustainable transportation in our city.
Where is the program taking place?
To date, the following schools within the Seven Oaks School Division have participated in the program:
- R.F. Morrison
- Forest Park
- H.C. Avery
- Arthur E. Wright
- O.V. Jewitt
- Edmund Partridge
- Governor Semple
- Margaret Park
- Amber Trails
- Leila North
Why is this program taking place?
A lot of people who bike, especially children, do not have the knowledge, skills, or confidence to cycle safely, and thus avoid it altogether or put themselves at risk. Green Action Centre’s Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) program aims to get more students walking and biking to school, which is why we have invested our time into the development and coordination of the BEST program. This work is critical in our efforts to increase the number of knowledgeable, confident cyclists in Manitoba and increase the acceptance of active transportation, which also leads to positive environmental and health benefits. We know that students who go through the program have more experience and skills, and thus as they enter adulthood they will be more likely to cycle, understand the rules of the road, respect cyclists as drivers, and ride safely.
“BEST bike program has made a huge difference – we have way more kids riding since it came to our school… We have families thanking us for having the BEST bike program – it has made the biggest difference.” – Testimonial from Arthur E. Wright Community School
Who is involved in this program?
This program has been made possible due to Manitoba Public Insurance, Seven Oaks School Division, Bike Winnipeg, The W.R.E.N.C.H., Green Action Centre, and the City of Winnipeg.