Westmount’s safe cycling ambassadors
Cycling education today helps ensure safe road use tomorrow
By Patricia Dumais
The practice of bicycling has grown tremendously in recent years. More and more people are opting for this healthy, efficient, enjoyable, non-polluting mode of transportation.
But safety issues do come to mind, with special concern for the most vulnerable — our children. According to statistics, among cyclists, teens and children are more likely to get into accidents, a fact that tells us they may often not be prepared nor armed with the necessary knowledge to cycle safely.
With this in mind, a few of years ago, Westmount City Council passed a resolution supporting cycling education in Westmount schools.
In 2014, the Association of Pedestrians and Cyclists of Westmount (APCW) began offering a cycling education course through the City of Westmount’s Sports and Recreation Programme, as a bridge to cycling education being taught in schools.
This spring 2016, the four-part course was given to 25 children aged eight to ten, with the help of the SPVM and Public Safety.
Part One of the course, lasting an hour and a half, introduced children to the Quebec Highway Safety Code. SPVM officers explained the rules, and gave safety tips, as well as examples of different situations cyclists, may encounter. Cycle Néron was on hand to inspect the children’s bicycles, ensuring they were road-ready. New this year were representatives of the Contactivity Social Action Committee, who spoke to the students about care when cycling around seniors who often have reduced hearing, vision, balance and reaction time.
Parts Two and Three, also lasting an hour and a half each, took place in a safe area where cyclists could practice various maneuvers such as signalling, sudden stops, avoiding dooring and checking before passing.
Part Four was a three-hour accompanied ride over to Old Montreal and back, via bike paths. The children were given maps and asked to determine two routes, one to go and one to return. Parents participated and the whole group enjoyed ice cream at their destination!
Representatives of the Contactivity Social Action Committee… spoke to the students about care when cycling around seniors who often have reduced hearing, vision, balance and reaction time.
In 2015, with the support of the APCW, Vélo Québec and St-Léon School agreed to test a pilot cycling education course for about 75 students. That course was very successful so it was repeated this year with the support of the City of Westmount.
The Vélo Québec Cycliste averti (Informed Cyclist) programme’s goal is to encourage safe cycling amongst fifth and sixth graders, leading to their gaining more independence in their environment.
Now taking place in seven schools in Montreal and the Mauricie areas, and serving around 500 students, the programme joins theory with practice sessions on road safety and gives children the opportunity to ride on the road in complete security.
The four-part programme includes a six-hour theory class, a six-hour safe zone practice class, a 2 to 5 km group practice outing and finally, individual exams based on the group outing. An awards ceremony took place at St-Léon, attended by school officials, Vélo Québec and City representatives, recognizing each child’s cycling achievement with a diploma.
Both the APCW and Vélo Québec programmes were greatly appreciated by both children and their parents. Here are a few comments:
“A BIG thank you for the cycle course and the afternoon expedition yesterday. The kids had great fun and we all enjoyed our ice creams.”
“Now I’m more confident when I have to ride off the bike path, among cars.”
“My child taught me things I did not know! This course is essential and should be taught in all primary schools.”
“ Now that my child knows the rules, I will try not to influence her with my bad habits!”
* Comment translated from the Vélo-Québec website.
The APCW is planning to approach other schools in Westmount, with the hope that Westmount could become the first community in Quebec to offer cycling education at all its primary schools.
Cycling education courses help ensure that the next generation will be respectful road users, whether on foot, on a bike or behind the wheel of a car. Studies also show that students who walk or cycle to school are less obese and arrive at school more attentive.
For more information about the Vélo Québec Cycliste averti programme go to velo.qc.ca/transport-actif/CyclisteAverti/Programme
For more information about the APCW go to acwestmount.wordpress.com
Patricia Dumais, artistic director, and award-winning graphic designer specializing in brand design is co-founder of Visionnaires, publishers of Westmount Magazine. Patricia develops visual concepts and ensures that all deliverables follow our publication’s standards and reflect the editorial voice. You can connect with Patricia on Linkedin, Twitter and Pinterest. or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.