Announced this morning by the Australian Cycling Promotion Foundation (ACPF), bicycle sales are at decade low. Simultaneously, Australian children are at a peak of inactivity. Are Australian children in an inactivity crisis? The ACPF has called it so. Bike riding in NSW is also in a crisis being the lowest in the country. By encouraging children to ride more we can help tackle this increasing lack of physical exercise in children through encouraging bike riding.
Within the City of Sydney Council 20% of residents ride their bicycle regularly compared to the 10% in Greater Sydney. Lord Mayor Clover Moore, stated that it was the long term project of building safe and connected bike paths that created this increase. Even between 2016 and 2017, there has been a 6% increase in bike riders within the Inner Sydney area. Three quarters of these riders had been cycling consistently and more than one fifth were returning to riding after a break.
Interestingly, residents in greater Sydney has access to one or more bicycles but rode twice as little as City of Sydney residents.
At Bourke Street Public Street in Surry Hills (located in the City of Sydney) approximately 80% of the children walk, ride or scoot to school. Principal, Peter Johnston, said “The kids enjoy it because they can ride along the bike lane to the school gate...Living in the inner city, it’s the perfect way for families to get daily exercise. It’s also great for the kids’ minds because they’re observing all that’s going on in their surroundings. It makes them an active part of the community. We encourage riding, walking and scootering as transport because they are such great fitness activities that promote a healthy lifestyle.”
Even amongst children aged 10 to 17 living in the City area, 40% are riding bikes, once again double that of the greater Sydney area.
New research highlights that 71% of children and 92% of young people are not meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity in Australia. This is a grave concern to us especially when bike riding in a viable option for many as an active form of transport.
According to the CEO National of the Heart Foundation, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, a survey of parents found that only 7% said their children did the recommended one hour per day of exercise, which means an estimated 600,000 children are inactive.
“It is vital we encourage daily physical activity for all our children and the daily trip to school is one of the best value investments we can make for their future health,” Professor Kelly said.
Comparatively, forty years ago 75% of children walked or rode their bikes to school and 25% were driven. Times have changed and now more than 70% of primary aged are driven to and from school daily.
Why not even encourage your children to be active by riding in events? Spring Financial Group Spring Cycle is the largest bike riding event in NSW and the only one where you can ride across the Sydney Harbour Bridge car free. Children also ride for free. It would be a great ride to work towards and lead to children being more active on weekends.
With national children’s bike sales at its lowest since 2003-2004, is it easier to link this information. Children are simply not riding or walking to school as much.
City of Sydney has been actively encouraging children to walk or ride to school. This includes, conducting Bicycle Education for a 1000 students last year. Roads and Maritime Services have built a number of Community and Road Education Scheme (CARES) Facilities in order to teach the local communities about road safety for all users. You can find these centres in Wyong, Prospect and Bass Hill.
The Australian Cycling Promotion Foundation is concerned that it has become too hard for children to be active as part of their daily trips to school and other local destinations.
“The ACPF believes that the declining sales (of children's bikes) are a simple indicator that we need to do more to make walking and cycling a real option every day for our children,” ACPF spokesperson Stephen Hodge said.
They continued to call on governments and local councils to focus on creating safer routes for children to get to school. It would be the first step to building a healthier and more engaged generation.
“A coordinated approach to active travel to and from school will give 3.7million children in schools access to healthy physical activity every day and embed good health promoting behaviours from an early age,” Rosemary Calder, Director, Australian Health Policy Collaboration stated.
Bicycle NSW encourages this change. Bike riding is an active form of transport that will help curb inactivity amongst children. Simply riding to school, children can gain all or most of their recommended physical activity. Together, we can tackle this situation.