Pupils share ideas on cycle skills

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Future cycle skills training courses could be designed using the ideas of Dunedin schoolchildren.

Late last year, a team of University of Otago Beats [Built Environments and Active Transport to School] Study researchers, led by social geography lecturer Christina Ergler, worked with pupils at Dunedin primary and intermediate schools to gain insight into their cycling experiences and their views on cycle skills training.

Dr Ergler said the study aimed to examine how cycle skills training functioned in different school contexts.

“We were interested in finding out what children and young people thought about the training – what they liked and what they thought could be done better,” Dr Ergler said.

The researchers also talked to experts and teachers and aimed to bring all of the different perceptions together to help develop the best possible cycle training programme for Dunedin, she said.

“Ultimately, it is about children gaining the skills that are helpful to get them on their bikes and cycling to school and other places.”

During the course of several days, the children were asked to take part in a focus group to discuss the cycle skills training programme, take researchers on a neighbourhood walk around their school, and share any concerns they had about cycle skills and road safety.

Each of these activities involved a strong visual element, such as children drawing maps showing the obstacles they encountered on the way to school, and creating posters.

“On the maps, we asked the children to indicate any risky or dangerous places on their route, and also the things that made riding to school fun,” Dr Ergler said.

In the final stage of the programme, children were invited to design and create a three-dimensional model of their ideal cycle training path, using materials such as cardboard, play dough and miniature road signs.

“The results were very creative. The children loved the real-life aspect of the study,” Dr Ergler said.

The study followed previous work done by the university’s Active Living Laboratory, in conjunction with the Dunedin City Council and Sport NZ, on cycle skills training.

Beats Study lead researcher Associate Prof Sandy Mandic said encouraging active transport to school could help curb concerning trends around young people becoming less physically active.