Noel Connelly believes that he has a solution to traffic congestion and the rise of obesity among the young. His idea is to encourage children to cycle to school.
He is pioneering a course for primary schools called Cycling Safety Training. The course is aimed at children from third class upwards. During six lessons children learn basic bike maintenance, helmet adjustment, the rules of the road and road position.
The courses take place on the school’s playground, where public road conditions are simulated. The training staff provide bicycles and helmets, but encourage children to use their own if they’re roadworthy.
A survey from the Dublin transport office recently showed that less children are cycling to school than ever before. The main reason given for the decline was a belief among parents that roads have become too dangerous. According to Connelly this is a self fulfilling prophecy, because as more parents drive their children to school the busier the roads become for all.
Neol, who is a cycling enthusiast, trained as an advanced cycling instructor in the UK. The evidence from that jurisdiction he says needs to be used to inform the Irish situation. ‘In the city of York, the premier region in the UK for cycling awareness education, statistics have shown that the percentage of cyclists involved in accidents has declined’.
The other advantage of increasing the numbers going to school by bicycle are, according to Connelly, the health benefits. He sees it as providing an inexpensive means of exercise and transport for the young and will help to encourage a healthier more active lifestyle in later life.
The Safe Cycling Training program is integrated into the PE class of many of the participating schools. The cost to each child for the six sessions is €23. Each school receives a training video and on completion every child is awarded a certificate.