Building safe cycling communities in Nelson and Marlborough

May 14, 2019

Thousands of tamariki in Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough are mastering the skills of cycling, and learning the love of two wheels, with the help of the instructors at Sport Tasman’s Ride On programme.

Gina Persico is the community cycle coordinator at Sport Tasman, and looks after the Ride On cycle skills programme in Nelson/Tasman. Her colleague Braden Prideaux is the coordinator for the Ride On programme in Blenheim. Skills Active caught up with Gina and Braden to find out what they’ve been up to.

(Pictured above are the Ride On Marlborough crew.)

How many kids go through the Ride On programme in a typical year?

Gina: Since July 1, 2018 we have seen around 2000 students in the Nelson/Tasman region come through the programme. That includes 16 schools taking part, and we’ve held three community events.

The introduction of the Bike Ready scheme and Bikes in Schools is having a really positive effect on the growth of cycle skills programmes.

Braden: In Marlborough over that same period we’ve had 500 students take part, from seven schools. Demand is increasing and numbers are growing every year.

Why is it important to learn cycle skills from a young age?

Gina: Cycling is great for kids from a fundamental movement skills perspective. It encourages hand-eye coordination and balance skills, which can also be transferred to other activities.

Once they’ve completed the programme, students feel like they have really achieved something, and learnt some new skills. And for some kids it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate skills they may already have.

Braden: Cycling also helps to develop road sense in young people before they become drivers on our roads. Learning safe cycle skills themselves helps to develop their understanding of cyclist behaviour.

Seeing the improvements that students make over the course of the lesson is really special. As an instructor, you can see huge progress in students’ cycling skills as well as an increase in their self-confidence.

Can you tell me about your cycle skills instructors?

Gina: We’ve got nine full-time instructors in the Nelson/Tasman programme and eight are fully qualified with the Skills Active cycle skills instructor certificate. Two of our people have completed further training so that they are certified to teach cycle skills up to Grade 3.

People tend to get involved in instructing through word-of-mouth. They might be teacher aides, or parents whose kids have done the programme, for instance.

Braden: We have 11 instructors in Blenheim and seven of them have qualifications through Skills Active. Seeing the programme in action inspires people to get onboard. They see us out on the road teaching and we get a lot of enquiries that way.

Gina: A good cycle skills instructor is able to think on their feet and adapt their approach as needed. Every delivery [of the programme] is different, so our instructors have to have the skills to recognise when something needs to change to ensure the session goes well, and then make that happen.

Having some prior understanding of coaching and teaching is useful for our instructors too – and they also develop that knowledge through the Skills Active certificate programme.

Braden: As an instructor, I would say that knowing your audience and adapting your programme to fit the needs of your learners is essential. Additionally, being enthusiastic and positively encouraging your learners throughout is important, to keep them motivated and on-task.

Can you tell me about how you and Skills Active have worked together?

Gina: Our local learning support advisor, Denise Clarke, has been fantastic. In order to get our people trained up, we facilitate small workshops which help instructors to work their way through the qualification booklet. As they do this they are sharing their experiences and lessons learned, and putting them into context to satisfy the qualification process.

Braden: The flexible nature of the Skills Active qualification process is great, because instructors are able to fit it in around their other commitments. We have a local senior assessor mentor, Garry Dunn, who assesses the practical and theory components, and provides feedback to the instructors.

Through the certificate, we have a formalised process to ensure all instructors are delivering the same material in the same way, which is great.

Gina: It has also been really valuable for us in terms of quality assurance, and health and safety. It gives the instructors an understanding of why we do things the way we do.