Ride to School Initiative Targets Early Lessons

Melbourne, Victoria

One of Australia’s leading cargo bike dealers has taken the initiative to boost the number of families who cycle to school, launching a concerted campaign this month to encourage and assist people to switch to active commuting.

Melbourne-based company Dutch Cargo Bike this month launched its Bike and Stay initiative, a not-for-profit venture to educate parents about the benefits of cycling with their children to school and to give them all the information they need to make the change.

“There are already campaigns encouraging people to ride to school or ride to work. However, we wanted the focus to be on families with much younger children – to ride to daycare, pre-school, kindergarten or primary school,” according to Bike and Stay founder Jurgen Heikamp, who started Dutch Cargo Bike and now Bike and Stay with his wife Emmy.

“This is about parents riding with their children to set a good example and so kids can learn from a very young age. Our tagline is ‘raising future cyclists’.

“If you want a confident cycling commuter later in life, you need to make a change now so your child is comfortable and confident on a bike. Our experience is it takes a lot of time for kids to become confident cycling by themselves.

“Our emphasis is also on encouraging parents to embrace riding to school as a daily occurrence, rather than something they are encouraged to do one day a year by some existing campaigns.”

The Heikamps this week launched a new Bike and Stay website, as the heart of the venture.  It highlights the benefits of cycling and gives parents access to a range of information including a bike commuting ‘how to’ guide, family friendly bike routes, an active travel tool kit, bike maintenance advice and weather apps.

The website will be backed by a Facebook page, other promotional materials and the recruitment of Bike and Stay ambassadors who are showing how it can be done.

The venture has been largely inspired by the Heikamps’ own family experience.

Learning by Example

“We are parents of 12-year-old twins and a 10-year-old who have been in and around bikes from a very young age, so they are very familiar with how mum and dad negotiate traffic, where we position our bikes on the road and how we generally ride to be safe,” Jurgen said.

He said that made a big difference in their ability to ride confidently and safely on their own.

Bike and Stay is an evolution of a more low-key campaign, Kiss and Stay, launched by the Heikamps a decade ago, when the Dutch Cargo Bike business was in its infancy.

It also focused on encouraging families to cycle to school but Jurgen and Emmy only had a small budget to build on their idea.

They have rebooted the venture with a new title, to better reflect its focus, and a better resourced and structured strategy to achieve its objectives.

That includes encouraging other bike industry businesses to get involved as sponsors and help the venture expand.

“We have been discussing it with other people in the market because this is not about advancing our business. It’s about changing people’s habits,” Jurgen said.

“Getting more people riding regularly will obviously bring a positive flow-on effect for the cycling industry in Australia. But it will also bring benefits for communities and for neighbourhoods.

“The idea is to start in Australia and see how we go. However, we deliberately went with an .org domain for the website because that gives us much more scope to expand it outside Australia. We feel it would be of interest and benefit parents in a lot of different countries.

“New Zealand could be our next step but we don’t want to have a plan that is too rigid. We want Bike and Stay to be more fluid in how it evolves.”

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