This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 23.
One of the most frequently asked questions which I have heard on the Campaign stall is from an anxious parent inquiring whether cycling proficiency still exists, and how they could find out about it. I now know that ‘Safer Cycling Courses’, as they are called in Cambridgeshire, are organised through the schools, and are considered so important to a child’s education that they are held in school hours.
Milton Road School recently appealed for volunteers to be trained as Safer Cycling Instructors, so that the year 6 children could all be offered the course. The one day training scheme run by Maree Richards and Sarah Truluck of the County Council is much easier to attend than the former five-day course. This may account for the record 48 instructors they were able to train so far this year, and will hopefully allow an improvement on the 30% of year 6 children who did the Safer Cycling course last year in Cambridgeshire.
Maree and Sarah presented the course between them, and were easily as entertaining as Mel and Sue from television’s ‘Light Lunch’. They explained the aims of the Safer Cycling Scheme and described the practicalities of setting up a Course at a school, with the aid of a very clear and comprehensive training manual. Children must be at least 10 years of age to enrol on a course, and they must be able to control their bicycle and maintain balance while giving arm signals. Their ability to do this is assessed in the first hour, which takes place in the playground. The remaining four hours take place at a reasonably quiet T-junction, where the children learn the correct procedures for turning left and right, both onto and off the ‘main road’. An important part of the course is getting the children to think about traffic and the hazards they must look out for. Each child is provided with an information pack and a homework book for this purpose, but luckily the instructors are given the answers!
A video called ‘Biking It’ is used in the first lesson to show the children the lane positions they should use for the turns, and the correct timing for hand signals. We were also shown a video of a playground session, with Sarah playing the part of the child, to give us an idea of how to assess competence.
We then all donned our high visibility tabards with ‘instructor’ across the back, and ventured onto the road, to the amusement of passers-by. Sarah again acted as guinea pig, and showed us the four turns at a T-junction. This was a useful exercise for selection of a T-junction with the right amount of traffic for training – just enough to make the children be aware of traffic, without their being intimidated.
I thoroughly enjoyed my training day, and learned a great deal. I am looking forward to teaching my first course, and I hope that I can start a few children safely along the way to a lifetime of enjoyable pedalling.
If you are interested in training to be a Safer Cycling instructor, enquire at your local junior school or contact:
Maree Richards or Sarah Truluck, Road Safety Officer (Education)
Cambridgeshire County Council