Post- course reflections from first of a new Format of Bikeability teaching I ran for St Lukes Primary Winton this May, a 2:4 Coach to Student ratio.
There are voices that discredit Bikeability teaching as a tick box exercise, well after 12 years of teaching it I can firmly say its anything but. Even within that time the roads have got busier, not that they weren’t busy in 2005! I’m confident in saying that whenever I hand the children back to parents they have demonstrated an ability to make decisions, and manage their risk on local roads. Aside of the manoeuvres we aim to perfect, positioning on road and good communication- just proving that they make decisions about risk:- when to wait, stay back at junctions and take the lane confidently really is something that children don’t normally do. We are helping them to become independent around their neighbourhoods, something I feel strongly about and what should be their right. Of course theres those that will keep implying that without built segregation cycling in the U.K will never increase, and indeed the evidence shows that putting in separate cycle lanes does produce large take up in use:- however if youre waiting for this to happen everywhere in Blighty, it will be long after my death before it happens, so do what you can now and lead the way.
So onto the new coaching format 2:4, running this helps schools that are prepared to run the courses on timetable time, there are still lots of schools that revert to the after schools format without realising they can use cycling as P.E activity. Teachers only lose 4 children from class for the Level 2 component which they are also happier about. Level 1 takes place in the group of 12 students on playground, as usual to prepare and ensure that the children are able to handle the bikes well enough for the instructors to be confident they are road-worthy. During Level 1 abilities and characters become clear, and it provides the chance to pair up appropriately for the Level 2 riding. As all instructors will attest to when there are no BMXS and on the first day bike checks all tyres are pumped up you are already at an advantage. Nothing against BMXs they just don’t really make for very good distance journeys.
Day 2,3,4. This is when 2 x instructors take 4 out together to work on the aims of Level 2 Bikeability. There are lots of reasons for this being effective. Children are always within earshot of a trailing instructor and can listen to directions. Working within the same area and in sight of each other, enables groups to interact with each other as traffic on riding. If all 4 riders are given a drill to complete managed by the leaders as usual this takes less time. Moving the front rider periodically allows skills to be practised well over sections and more content can be covered in less time than trying to instruct 6 together. Overall training becomes far more interactive and personal as compared to us safely managing large groups snaking between locations. Winton area is a densely populated streetscape to Risk Assess , and without moving trainees to distant locations necessitates using a Victorian Streetscape ,with many one way streets, single lanes and parked cars both sides of the street. This kind of environment suits 2:4 ratios much better than having a long line of riders, where there are often following drivers. St Lukes course unfortunately had a wet day 2, so we covered theory indoors before an Hour and half out in the rain, as always the children didn’t care about the weather but I prefer giving them back not saturated! Day 3 and 4 were both excellent days with all outcomes of Level 2 Achieved well. Using the many junctions repeatedly around a small locality really enforces positioning technique quickly as compared to large groups snaking to reach good training locations, coupled with much more time on the bike this format has proven to be as good as I had hoped it to be. Day 4 with the third group of 4 riders we covered 2.5 miles by one students fitbit, decent distance for the aims. I would definitely advise on suggesting this format to Schools for all future courses. Have to also say that during this training around Heron Court Road, Charminster Ave and streets in between drivers showed good consideration throughout without one incidence of overt speeding or dangerous driving. Life on the roads on two wheels isn’t as scary as some say, trust me 30 years ago there used to be waaaaay more blatant dangerous driving, youll know if you were there.