How do you keep children cycling in the winter?

Kids, with the right encouragement, aren't as easily put off by winter weather as adults are...
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BikeBiz speaks with Beth Harding, a Sustrans' Bike It Officer working in Northern Ireland...

Fair weather cyclists have enjoyed an Indian summer, but soon the gloves will be off, and the season will throw cold, wet weather at the nation’s cyclists, as well as the joys of cycling in the dark.

It’s a time when, naturally, there are fewer cyclists on the roads. But with the guidance of Bike Hub-funded Sustrans Bike It officers, the children of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are being encouraged to resist putting their bikes into storage for the next five months and keep on pedalling instead.

Beth Harding is a Sustrans Bike It officer working in Northern Ireland. Since the autumn/winter terms started Harding has been organising events and activities in schools to teach children about road safety, focusing on when the clocks go back and when the mornings and evenings get darker.

Those activities include Brighter Bike Days. On September 16th 120 children took part in a Brighter Bike Day in and Gilnahirk Primary School. Local streets will filled with children cycling to school in their most colourful clothes, pressing home the need for them to ‘Be Bright and Be Seen’. Prizes were on offer for the brightest garb and bikes.
BikeBiz takes up the story with Harding…

Is it a tough time of the year to encourage kids to get on their bikes?
It can be more difficult to encourage cycling in colder, darker, wetter weather, but I think the seasonal weather is more of a hindrance for adults than children. I think children are generally more apt to brave the weather conditions. A recent Brighter Bike Day proved this: Despite a morning of cold, steady rain, over 70 children cycled to school with an additional 30 to 40 students participating in the event by walking to school.

Do children generally have a good appreciation of how important it is to have lights and high vis gear at this time of year?
Yes, children generally have a good understanding of how important it is to be bright this time of year with high vis clothing and bike lights. The message is being passed on from parents, schools, road safety officers and Sustrans.

Do you work with any bike shops in the area to help with the project?
The main local bike shop that Sustrans has worked with is Bike Dock in Ravenhill Road. Bike Dock has been very supportive of the project. I have worked with them to facilitate a number of ‘I Love My Bike Days' and Bike Rodeos with both primary and secondary schools in the greater Belfast area. Bike Dock has supplied bike mechanics, demo bikes and discounts for the schools I work with. I have also worked with Bike It Cycles to deliver similar activities in a particular school.

And how long have you worked with schools in the area?
Sustrans has been working with schools in the greater Belfast area since 2009. I have been working as the Sustrans Bike It officer with the current schools since January 2011.

Will you be running more Brighter Bike Days in the year and/or repeating them again next year?
I run these events every year because it’s really important to make sure children understand the importance of being bright and being seen on dark winter days and nights. I have plans to run three more Brighter Bike Days before the end of October. There will most likely be more Brighter Bike Days post-October as well.

The cycle industry levy Bike Hub contributes funding to the Sustrans-run Bike It scheme, which works with 600 schools throughout the UK, including 11 schools in the greater Belfast area, in partnership with the DRD Travelwise and Sport NI.

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