28 Mar 2019

School bike train: 'It's good exercise and it's fun'

2:48 pm on 28 March 2019

Parents at an Auckland primary school are taking the traditional walking school bus to the next level, with a "bike train".

Just under a year on from its first journey, the Point Chevalier School bike train has saved more than 1000 school car drop-offs.

The group of about 12 children aged 5 to 7 in hi-vis vests makes its way down seven blocks - navigating pedestrian crossings and driveways along the way.

Confidently leading the pack on his bright orange dinosaur bike was 6-year-old Luca Brett.

"I bike every day to school," he said.

"It's good exercise and it's fun."

Luca was one of the first members of the bike train when it was started in July last year by a teacher and parent, Matt Fordham.

Almost a year on, he said Luca was one of just under 20 students registered with the group learning how to be safe and courteous users of the footpath.

"They ride so confidently, and they are so aware of what is going on and they are so safe," Mr Fordham said.

Mr Fordham said the bike train had made over 1000 trips since it started, and was replacing as many drop-offs by cars.

A rotating roster of parents supervise the rides, but months of planning and establishing online resources had made it into the sustainable bike train model it is today.

Mr Fordham believed it was the first collaborative bike train model in the city to be riding "rain or shine".

"We have proven it is achievable with a little bit of thinking and effort up front."

Auckland Transport (AT), which helped get the initiative rolling last year, plans to recognise the students' involvement by presenting them with certificates in a school assembly at the end of the term.

Community transport manager Claire Dixon said less than two percent of Auckland students biked to school - and it was a figure she would like increased.

She said AT was drafting guidelines for bike trains for other schools based on what had worked well for the parents and teachers involved at Point Chevalier School.

"It's definitely not one-size-fits-all.

"And it needs to work well for the parents or community that are running it."

Ms Dixon said legislation meant riding on the footpath was illegal, so it would work to set up bike trains at schools with cycleways nearby.

Despite this, AT did not want to deter any groups wanting to start bike trains in areas where they would have to ride on footpaths, as the efforts were in keeping with the organisation's long-term goals.

Mr Fordham is looking for funding from AT to develop a smartphone app that would offer information for schools, registration for parents and safety reminders for supervisors.