Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cycle Education, Canberra

During the school Holiday's two of my children attended the Kids Road & Bike Safety Holiday Programme
run by Cycle Education. It was interesting to watch and I made a little video of the occasion. After a couple of hours tuition, they rode off on a ride around the suburb, looking at the road environment as they are in a real sense.


Cycle Education provides the only bicycle traffic safety tuition to school age children in the ACT after the Belconnen Traffic centre run by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) closed in June 2007.

The former Traffic centre at Belconnen.

The AFP's reason for closing the Traffic centre was on a report by consultants, The ARRB Group. Their analysis focused on the comparison of two Bicycle education courses. The 'Bike Ed' Course and the Traffic Centre Road Safety Package (TCRSP), were undertaken in 2006. Ironically both courses are no longer running but the consultants reason for recommending the closure of the Belconnen site where the TCRSP was:

“Research found the centre's training methodologies were not in line with many modern
teaching practices. In particular, it was found that training children in an artificial environment
could lead to an inflated sense of confidence, which may be counter-productive outside the
training environment.”

Really ! someone better inform the many European countries such as the Netherlands that they must be doing it wrong. The Victorian and NSW governments still provide such programs run in miniature traffic environments ,the NSW program is called the Community and Road Education Scheme (CARES),which is run by the NSW Police and provide outdoor  lessons include bicycle safety checks, basic riding skills and obstacle course, riding on the road environment training track which features a roundabout, traffic lights and other ‘real life’ road characteristics.

What was interesting in the study by The ARRB group that it referenced a number of studies and two that stated:

 The literature review also revealed that traffic centres such as that operated by the AFP, have
little to offer children in the development of bicycle and related road safety skills. Scientific
evaluations conducted in Europe in the 1970s and early 1980s revealed that such off-road
facilities did not adequately simulate the real traffic environments and were not effective in
improving the behaviour of children who underwent training; training conducted in the real road
environment was found to be significantly more effective than that conducted off-road (Christie
2000). A more recent study by Hughes and Pietro (2004) concluded that no clear evidence
existed that traffic centres are an effective road safety education strategy, and it was not
possible to support the establishment of such facilities. In addition, such centres may
inadvertently encourage students to become over-confident about their ability to cope safely in
 Christie's study of 2000 was sighting the effectiveness of off road training facilities for novice drivers and not for bicycle training or proficiency, and shouldn't have been sighted as a reference for the analysis of the two courses. These types of facilities shouldn't be assessed by annual road toll figures, but in children's awareness of traffic and the ability the learn traffic signs and signals in a safe environment. Christie doesn't give a good analysis of the Bike Ed course in Victoria which the ACT Bike Ed course is based on either in another report.
Do artificial traffic environments give a false sense of confidence? I wouldn't expect so as most children and school students would ride on cycle paths that are physically separated from the road traffic. The major issues are at  road intersections, particularly ones that are not signalised. That's when in my view ,facilities like the ones below are needed.

This relatively new site at Sydney Park , Alexandria which opened in 2004 is run as part of the Community and Road Education Scheme (CARES).The issue I have with these facilities as that are not are true representation in the sense of existing or new bicycle facilities in the road environment like cycle lanes and separated paths.

The picture of cycle education in the Netherlands highlights the separate cycle facilities in a true representation of a traffic roundabout. They learn how to react in traffic, keep distance and read traffic signs.

Getting back to the Cycle Education program in Canberra which provides good skills, a better quality facility is definitely needed than just  a school playground and a traffic roundabout marked in chalk. Some schools have better access to good cycle networks than others and are ideal for school based cycle education but a few central facilities need to built that provides adequate cycle training and proficiency.


Gary said...

What a bunch of idiots. Don't we train our Police in an "artificial environment".

Paul said...

Yes, I know that there are similar facilities in Holroyd, Bankstown and Campbelltown Local Government areas in Sydney. These artificial environments provide a necessary safe space for children to learn to ride, learn to balance and stop and other necessary bike riding skills. I think the issue is also not having a comprehensive list of where these places are located and how to access them.

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