New cycling education and skills training program launched

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Manitoba Public Insurance and partners have launched a cutting edge, grassroots educational cycling program that will encourage and teach students in Grades 4 to 8 to bicycle for transportation and recreation, Crown Services Minister Ron Schuler announced today.

“We’re proud to announce that Manitoba is among one of the first provinces in Canada to launch such a safety program for students,” Schuler said of the Bicycling Education & Skills Training in Schools (BEST).

“This is a commitment to road safety and life-long learning. The goal of the program is to provide students with basic cycling skills and knowledge which they will be able to apply when driving, consequently creating heightened awareness to the needs of cyclists.”

The three-year pilot has been launched in the Seven Oaks School Division, with a total of four participating schools ─ H.C. Avery Middle School, Forest Park School, Collicutt School and R.F. Morrison.

BEST students will receive approximately four hours of bicycle training. BEST was developed in partnership between Bike Winnipeg, Seven Oaks School Division, Manitoba Public Insurance, Green Action Centre and the WRENCH.

“BEST allows us to reach out to an important age group, in that they are in a state of transition, moving from the sidewalk with parental assistance, to being independent on roadways,” said Ward Keith, vice-president of Business Development and Communications, Manitoba Public Insurance.

“Bicycle safety is now reaching all ages of users. Young children are given safety information at our bike rodeo sessions, while we have existing adult programs and partnerships in place.”

Manitoba Public Insurance has worked in collaboration with Bike Winnipeg for a number of years, relating to vehicle/bicycle safety.

"Biking is an important life skill that will help these students make healthy transportation options that provide the environmental and economic benefits so critical to a sustainable future,” said Mark Cohoe, executive director, Bike Winnipeg. “Bike Winnipeg is delighted to be part of this important program to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to make biking part of their everyday life."

A student having taken the full five years of training ─ Grades 4 to 8 ─ would have received a total of 20 hours of safety training. Students will also be shown how to properly maintain their bicycle, in addition to proper use of safety equipment.

The program ─ co-funded by Manitoba Public Insurance and Seven Oaks School Division ─ has been designed to meet the existing objectives of the Manitoba physical education and health programs for students in Grades 4 through 8.

“Getting our students to be fit is a major challenge today and active transportation is a big part the answer to that challenge,” said Brian O’Leary, superintendent, Seven Oaks School Division. “Seven Oaks School Division is thrilled to be part of this initiative.”

Over the last several years, cycling has become a more popular form of exercise, recreation and transportation. While some people are cycling as part of their environmentally-conscious lifestyle, many others are trying to improve their health and increase their physical activity and others simply prefer to travel by bicycle, when possible.

"Our program is very excited to be a part of this groundbreaking project - the first bike education program in Canada and second in North America to be integrated into the physical education curriculum of schools,” said Jamie Hilland, Program Manager, Active and Safe Routes to School Program, Green Action Centre.

“We are hopeful that giving children the confidence to safely ride their bikes will result in more children cycling to school, making for less vehicle traffic, safer streets, cleaner air, and healthier kids due to increased physical activity. "