I have the privilege of cycling to work each day, passing through one of New Zealand’s Top Beaches, Caroline Bay. Over the last couple of months, a new children’s bike park has been developed on the Bay.
It got me thinking of one of the things I noticed during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020. A lot of families were out on the streets enjoying the walk and the fresh air.
Maybe it was due to the lack of traffic, but many little children were riding their bikes and scooters out on the road while the rest of the family walked alongside. This was such a refreshing spectacle to see. Families are active in their communities rather than just driving around in a tin box.
One of the benefits was children able to learn to ride their bikes on a road and learn a few road rules. This moment is over now and maybe never to return.
All the roads are back to being full of traffic and have once again become a dangerous place to learn to ride your bike.
However, across the country, Junior Bike Parks have been sprouting up. Some are a simple layout of a few road markings on a basketball- court-sized piece of asphalt all the way through.
Others, an elaborate road with multiple intersections, some controlled with working traffic lights, roundabout, traffic islands and even curbing and gutters for when it rains. Some of these parks look like scaled-down real city roads minus the traffic and the danger.
These parks are designed to allow children to develop their cycling skills in a safe place. Parents and caregivers can also teach some road safety while keeping near their children or crossing one of the pedestrian crossings.
Olympic cycling gold medalist Sarah Ulmer was at the opening of the Bell Block facility. She said, ‘Getting kids back on bikes, it’s awesome.’ ‘To be able to build the talent to become world beaters is what it’s all about and that’s what you guys have got here,’ she said.
Many towns and cities in New Zealand have established cycle network strategies and cycleways that parallel the newest opened motorways. These are a vast improvement over the lack of or token efforts of years gone by.
NZTA (NZ Transport Agency says ‘Walking, cycling and other active modes should be central elements of any transport strategy or plan. The underlying objective should be to encourage more people to travel by these modes more often.’
Cycling, especially since the introduction of electric bikes, has increased in New Zealand. The percentage of people who cycled to work was 2.9 per cent (44,184 people), up from 2.5 per cent (38,091 people) in 2006.
Nelson City had the highest percentage of people who travelled to work by bicycle, at 8.7 per cent (1,524 people). This was up from 7.2 per cent (1,215 people) in 2006. Christchurch City was next highest, at 7.0 per cent (9,804 people) – up from 6.5 per cent (9,093 people) in 2006 (2013 QuickStats, 2015).
Unfortunately, cycling to school has seen a decrease over the last 25 years. Young children especially are cycling less than they used to. New Zealand Transport Agency says, ‘What we don’t know is whether this will have an effect on the amount of cycling people will do in the future – will fewer children cycling lead to fewer adults cycling when the grow up?’ (25 Years of New Zealand, 2015)
Community groups and Councils that have taken up this challenge to provide a safe environment for children to learn how to ride a bicycle need to be applauded.
Doing this will encourage more young children to go cycling. These, along with other initiatives, will hopefully see an increase in cycling numbers and use cycling as a source of transport that is relatively cheap, climate change friendly and suitable for our increasingly urban environments.
Here are some more interesting articles:
- Hundreds use Timaru’s new bike skills park during school holidays | Stuff.co.nz
- Napier Junior Bike Track – Cycle Skills Tracks | Hawke’s Bay NZ
- Children’s bike park opened | Otago Daily Times Online News (odt.co.nz)
- Junior Road Safety Park (pncc.govt.nz)
Cycling. (September 2014). NZTA. Retrieved from https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/userfiles/transport-data/Cycling.pdf
2013 Quickstats About transport and communication. (2015, February). Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved from https://www.stats.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Retirement-of-archive-website-project-files/Reports/2013-Census-QuickStats-about-transport-and-communications/2013-census-qs-transport-comms.pdf
Ministry of Transport. (2015). 25 years of New Zealand travel: New Zealand household travel 1989–2014. Wellington: Ministry of Transport.