A new bike education program to give pre-teenage children greater riding skills and confidence was launched last month by AusCycling.
The AusBike program will be delivered nationally, for kids aged five to 12, by accredited instructors through cycling and riding clubs, leisure centres and private coaches from Term 4 of the 2023 school year, with plans to extend the program to schools from 2024.
AusCycle, the nation’s governing body for cycling, has recently been expanding its focus from competitive cycling to broader riding advocacy and hopes “AusBike will help reverse the alarming decline in the national rate of active travel to school, which has plunged from 75% to 25% in the past 40 years”.
“With such a staggering decline in active travel to school, we believe AusBike will help to not only build confidence, but also see people fall in love with bike riding again.”
“This, along with a general decline in sport participation and incidental activity through outdoor play, has had a significant impact on the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of Australian children,” AusCycle says in a statement.
“The program caters for kids of all levels of bike riding experience – whether they’re just off training wheels or further down the track with their cycling journey.”
More than 5,000 kids have already experienced AusBike through its pilot phase, through partnerships with Belgravia Leisure, YMCA Camps and AusCycling’s club network.
AusCycling CEO Marne Fechner said: “With such a staggering decline in active travel to school, we believe AusBike will help to not only build confidence, but also see people fall in love with bike riding again and see participation in activity grow.
“We’ve involved a broad range of experts to develop this program to ensure it is beneficial for both Australian children and their parents, and we know AusBike will set the standard for introductory programs for sport participation.”
AusBike has been backed by the Federal Government, with a $2.05 million contribution through the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), and is based on CORE4Skills, an evidence-based framework for developing, practicing and embedding fundamental bike skills.
The Federal Minister for Sport, Anika Wells, said the program addressed the problem that fewer children are enjoying the “joys of riding a pushy” and the “immense mental and physical health benefits” of being active and outdoors on a bike.
ASC CEO Keiren Perkins suggested AusBike could help show the next generation of Australians the importance of learning to cycle, in the same way swimming lessons have become an important part of childhood.
“We believe that sport has a place for everyone and by catering for children at any stage of their bike riding journey, AusBike will encourage children that may not have hopped on a bike before to give cycling a go,” according to the former world champion swimmer and Olympic gold-medallist.
AusCycle has enlisted celebrity health and fitness instructor Michelle Bridges to help promote AusBike, with her seven-year-old son enrolled in the program.