In recent years Ashby Primary School has placed a strong emphasis on combating the car culture in order to foster respect for and help preserve our environment and to create a happier and healthier world for us and for future generations. The Ashby community strongly encourages active transport and students have become keen to ride, walk or scoot to school.
In 2003 after Ashby parents contacted our local council and State Government to express interest in establishing a Walking School Bus program to support and encourage Ashby students to walk to school, the program was introduced. As more parents trained as ‘bus drivers’, the idea caught on and increasing numbers of students have joined a ‘bus on wheels’ which enables them to happily and safely walk to school in small, cross level groups clearly visible wearing their fluorescent vests.
Similarly the idea to introduce Bicycle Education at Ashby stemmed from parents and students who had been involved in, and encouraged, walking to school, but felt that it would be even better to offer cycling as another worthwhile transport option. They viewed cycling as an enjoyable and sustainable form of transport, and wanted to ensure that students had suitable skills to cycle safely. After teachers, a parent and a community member completed the Bicycle Education course, it was introduced to Years 5 and 6 in 2007 under the supervision of four Bike Ed instructors, and this was continued in 2008 with Years 4 and 5.
The promotion of cycling at Ashby received a large boost when the school received grant money to construct a sustainable bike shed which comfortably houses forty bikes, is made from recycled materials, has a solar powered panel and whose roof captures rainwater which flows into a water tank located next to the vegetable garden. In addition another grant enabled the purchase of four bikes and helmets for student use and the creation of a permanently marked Bicycle Education riding course.
Students have gained many advantages from both programs and from the promotion of Active Travel in general throughout the school community.
• Given that in today’s society many children lead sedentary lives and childhood obesity has become a problem, encouraging students to ride, walk or scoot safely provides them with exercise and can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Hopefully these travel habits will become part of the norm for them and will increase their likelihood of using Active Travel when they are teenagers and adults.
• Fewer cars on the road means there is less traffic congestion and less pollution at Ashby. Students have become increasingly aware of the fragility of their environment and of the need to preserve it. They recognise that they are doing their bit by using their own energy to travel rather than relying on the car.
• Compared with students who are driven to and from school, students who use Active Travel are generally more aware and observant of their environment and more familiar with people and features in their local neighbourhood.
• In addition, Ashby students who walk, ride or scoot to school have already expended energy on their journey and so are bright and alert for their lessons. They also often develop socialisation skills and self-confidence.
• A positive spin off has been an increase in family members enjoying riding and walking together after school and at weekends.
An important development in the school’s promotion of Active Travel this year has been the establishment of a Student Active Travel Committee whose members set themselves the task of monitoring and improving the school’s travel habits. They were assisted by an officer from Bicycle Victoria who met regularly with these students and provided incentives which the committee awarded periodically to Active Travellers.
One of the tasks of the committee co-ordinators was to distribute Hands Up surveys each month to every class. In this way the mode of transport for all students was recorded and tracked so that month by month comparisons could be made.
When the surveys began in September 2007, 35% of Ashby students used Active Travel to come to school. There has been an overall increase, with an average to date of 51%, which compares favourably with the State average of 20%. Our best efforts were on Walk Safely to School Day in March 2008 and on Ride to Work Day in October 2008 as on both days the result was 87% of students walking, riding or scooting to school. The committee co-ordinators have regularly submitted newsletter articles announcing these results, encouraging students, staff and parents to engage in Active Travel and providing travel data and information.
Claire Nugent – Grade 6
Student Active Travel Committee
For more information please contact Natalie Biscan on 0352231291, email: email@example.com. Ashby Primary School is located at 2 Lawton Ave , Geelong West 3218.