Once upon a time there was a little red man. One morning he woke up, got out of his little red bed, collected his little red towel from his little red linen cupboard and began to enjoy a refreshing morning shower. Presently, he heard a knock at the door. Begrudgingly, he turned off the taps, hurriedly wrapped himself in his little red towel and made his way to the front door. Greeting him on the other side was a little green man. Just when the little green man was about to launch into his sales-pitch spiel, the little red man dropped his towel and all was revealed! The little green man, startled and affronted by such indecent behaviour, unheedingly ran across the street…and was hit by an oncoming bus! What is the moral to this story?
The family is dressed. Tummies filled. Bags replete with homemade lunches, readers and other pedagogical paraphernalia. Everyone is ready to begin the school day. Just when you feel it’s safe to tick off the last of the efficiently-organised mum boxes you round the corner at the end of your quiet suburban street…
…only to be met by a peloton of vehicles all vying for an “on time” position in the infamous school morning chase.
Back before fat-wheeled – battle of the desk job bulge – tyres gained excessive traction among the pedal biking elites, my brothers and I were all too familiar with the concept of all terrain cycling. After racing down our “Dry Weather Only” road succeeding drought breaking rains, arriving at the bus stop mud-streaked and with tread 3” thick from accumulated mud clay was somewhat of a normal start to a day at the education mill. Not wanting to rob my own children of such heroic commuting anecdotes, I’ve kept the tradition alive…with the added benefit of some top quality all-weather kit. Rain, frost or summer heat-wave shine, each school morning sees our two-wheeled, pedal-power team sailing past the egregious morning hold-up. Impregnating the rapidly expanding craniums with with sounds of birds, rustling greenery and indulgent post-morning-play chatter, my children arrive at the school house in good spirits and with synaptic clefts at the ready: a mindful way to begin the learning day.
Last Friday (22nd March) was National Ride2School Day in Australia. Being a strong advocate – one of many in our community – for any activity that sees our little one’s bodies exercising their way to the school gates, I am keen to bestow my revolutionary wisdom upon all those willing to don the helmet and bell.
Before you front up at the Tour de’ School starting line…some tips to get your wheels rolling:
- Read the terms and conditions: make sure you bone up on the road rules for your state, territory or jurisdiction as there may be some variations. For example, in my town, cyclists need to have a bell and helmet and are required to cycle on the left hand side of the shared path. We are also allowed to cycle over zebra crossings…an exception to most other places in Australia thanks to our large cycling community. It is also good to establish some family rules too…such as always waiting at crossings for the rest of the team to catch up and…to avoid sibling squabbles…who gets to press the buzzers or cycle at the front.
- Devise a race strategy: many roads lead to Roome (…school room that is). I like to take my children through a diverse range of traffic situations: the more the “road-ready” better. Whilst a series of safe, quiet streets may be tempting, it can rob you of a teaching opportunity. My cycling route includes: school crossings (with a supervisor), zebra crossings, busy highway crossings (with multiple intersections), back streets (requiring on road cycling and therefore hand signals), foot paths and bike paths.
- Enlist a support crew: or atleast ensure you always carry some essentials such as an old rag (in case the chain comes off), plasters, tissues and a bike pump. If you know how to change a tire (…one for a later post) then tyre leavers and a puncture repair kit come in handy too. If you happen to form a small break away (…from the driving tradition) then you can always ask one of your co-cycling team to lend a hand should you ever have a bingle.
- Win! As with anything new…committing to cycling each day is a true game changer for many families. It may be best to start small and choose one day a week to saddle up or just commit during the summer school terms. Whatever your choice…I implore you to stick with it…it will pay dividends! In the not too distant High School future…your teenragers will relish in the psychological freedom that is getting from A to B without that big, fat, gas imbibing C!
Oh…and as for the moral to the story…
…don’t cross the road when the red man is flashing!
After over four years of school-cycling commuting, there is still one thing I continually have to drum into my kid’s helmet-wearing, flagging afternoon skulls (or usually a last minute grab of the backpack)…and that is: “Always look for the green man before you leave the curb!”. Check to make sure that the buzzing sound (for the pedestrian light) is for the road you are about to cross!
On your marks…set…get cranking!