Always on the look-out for bike ideas and inspiration you might borrow and apply for your own kids? Then you’ll want to know about the Bike Rodeo!
Hands up if you’re from the school vintage that had bike education classes? It was great fun – all the little 20-inchers would be lined up outside and each week kids would be seen weaving though witches hats, stopping at pretend traffic lights… Maybe even pulling a cheeky mono here and there.
But for most Aussie schools, dedicated bike ed class is a thing of the past. Unless of course, you happen to go to Porepunkah Primary.
A State school with a student population of 107, Porepunkah PS is located in North-east Victoria at the very foothills of Mt Buffalo, and just a short drive down the road from Bright. Owner of the town’s Rail Trail Café and general cycling fan Lucy remembers those classes well. It got her thinking – why couldn’t her son's school offer something similar?
As is often the case in the country, getting stuff done is all about less talk and more action. So it wasn’t very long indeed before a group of like-minded parents had bandied together to create Porepunkah Primary’s very first Bike Rodeo.
What is the Bike Rodeo all about?
The aim – to encourage kids to ride, improve their skills and get to know their bikes in a fun & safe environment.
Through the session children become more aware of roads and riding safely on them. This doesn’t necessarily translate to having them ride on the actual roads per se just yet, but more so to get them in that alert and appropriate mindset so by the time they take the bikes off the rail trails and onto the roads, they’re already a spin ahead.
Another side benefit of the class is to encourage parents to also be more aware of cyclists. This area is a micro-climate for the nation’s cycling culture – there has been a tremendous explosion of road and MTB in the area (locals and visitors alike). Students exposed to Bike Rodeo go home and animatedly talk about it, prompting adults to indirectly become more aware of the threats and challenges that face the region’s two-wheel road users.
There’s no bucking bikes at this rodeo
Although that said, certainly one of the skills developed is for kids to stay on their bikes in challenging scenarios. In fact there are six different activity areas:
1/ A track around the school with directional traffic signage and bumps and turns along the way.
2/ Special line-markings on the new basketball court featuring tight U-turn simulations, stop on a dime challenges and go-slow races.
3/ An actual road (which is blocked off from traffic during the rodeo) and which is used to simulate safe road crossings with bikes as well as other various exercises, such as kids having to turn around and scan behind them (whilst riding) and identify the object being held up by an instructor. Or they might have to ride past a parked car and anticipate its doors opening, etc.
4/ The oval, which features an obstacle course of sponges set up in a serpentine effect, requiring all those great weaving skills to be developed (needless to say they’re sponges as they tend to be run over in the early days!).
5/ A ‘posty drop’ simulation, requiring the kids to ride competently whilst holding a rolled-up newspaper, which then has to be dropped into a target.
6/ Pursuit challenges in a large circle mown into the oval as well as fun relay games where students must retrieve and replace tennis balls from the tops of tall witches cones.
If you want something to happen, do it yourself
Lucy and her fellow school parents didn’t muck around to get the Bike Rodeo up and riding. It’s entirely volunteer run (parents do everything from mow paths into the grass, to all the admin, to conducting classes). Instructors are qualified through the Cycling Safe programme, which was funded through a Bicycle Network grant and the local Rotary Club. There is also always at least one First Aid qualified officer present at all times. One of the parents is also a bike mechanic and is responsible for conducting a quality control on all helmets and bikes before the class commences.
Nitty gritty Classes go for 1 1/2 hour sessions and cost $10 per child, $15 for two children or $20 for three children.
Class size is anywhere from 20 – 40 participants. A parent or legal guardian is required to remain in the vicinity for the duration of class, but they don’t need to be hands-on involved. They can use the time to read that latest chapter, knock out some work on the laptop, or just enjoy some North-east sunshine.
Kids are required to come with their own bikes.
Bookings are essential – touch base with the school here for more info