Sunday 10 July 2011

School bike trip

This video has explanatory captions which will only be visible if you watch on a computer and not on a mobile device.

One of the "hazards" of cycling in the Netherlands is the frequency with which you'll come across large groups riding bikes slowly. Sometimes older people, sometimes children. You have to slow down until it's safe to pass, but I'm not complaining.

On the way home from Groningen a few days ago I came across this school group going somewhere or other. I rode behind them at their pace until it was safe to pass, then videoed them as I went by.

This is a very common sight here, but I usually miss it because I'm usually working when the schools are in session.

My 11 year old daughter setting off
on the end of primary school cycle
camping trip. This is not something
done by progressive schools in
"cycling cities" but normal for
almost all Dutch schools.
We knew before we moved here that Dutch children rode their bikes to school, and that the average age that they travelled independently to school was very young, but we had no idea that the schools also did the majority of their trips by bike.

That applies to primary schools as well as secondary schools. Sometimes they give the students instructions for where they should go, and leave them to find their own way and sometimes the teachers ride with the students.

The same daughter took this
photo last week on another
school trip. A good illustration
of the subjective safety which
makes this possible.
At the end of primary school, it is common for entire classes to go on cycle camping trips. Our youngest daughter took part in this, riding about 150 km over three days, and having a lot of related adventures including swimming in lakes and "dropping" - an activity where children find their own way back to the campsite at midnight after being left in the forest.

In the world's safest country for cycling, anything is possible. The emphasis has been on taking care of real dangers, not imaginary ones.

The road in the video is one of many small country roads which doesn't provide a through route by car, but only by bike.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that brings back memories. My secondary school did events like this for kids in the first and second year (the yearly school trips for later years were abroad). We'd ride in groups of six or seven with not much more than a sheet of paper with instructions and an emergency number — this was before the widespread use of mobile phones, so they made sure we had some cash to use a phone booth. The first year (age 13) we did about 50 km, the second year (age 14) we were supposed to about 80 or 90 km but we ended up doing well over 100 due to teenage hubris and poor navigation.

I remember racing my friends on the home stretch on the way back in the first year, narrowly being beaten by another group. I also remember that the wind in some of the flat areas during the second year was overpowering and it took quite a bit of organising (by the kids who rode 10 km each way every day) to get us into proper echelons with rolling turns. Good times.

I do realise now that this must sound terrifying to British and American parents.

Kevin Love said...

Alas, the local schools here don't do things like that with cycling. The closest we come is Royal Canadian Army Cadets. One of the best opportunities for a 12-18 year olds to get away from their parents, live in the woods for the summer and do military training. See:

OldGreyBeard said...

Today, Sunday, I decided to see if we could cycle to my daughter's new school. She is 9 years old and moving up to middle school. Quite a lot of the the route is shared use path, pretty good by UK standards, but there are quite large gaps in the middle and at either end.

The big problem is that you either have to cycle with cars around or walk in the gaps. The drivers make me very nervous as they seem to just not see bikes

We were cycling home in a 20mph area along a one way street. There was a van parked in the cycle contraflow going the other way of course. I was in primary, my daughter in secondary and a taxi just had to force its way past before the parked van. Nothing I could have done would have stopped him.

This is pretty typical for the UK.

The distance to school is about 2Km and we will probably walk with me cycling back. My wife won't let our daughter cycle to school.

The irony is that the school has a major car congestion problem. It's proposed solution? A car drop off area.

The UK is so totally hopeless except for a very few islands of reasonable cycling infrastructure.

I'm not surprised you left for the Netherlands!

M-MZ said...

Cycling in the Netherlands is the ultimate freedom for school going kids.

When I was about 7 and my sister 6 we where allowed to cycle to school on our own. My mother made sure we could cycle the 3 km on our own and do this safely. We had a couple of save havens on the route. After school you could go to our friends, visit our grandparents or go to the swimming pool. All without the help of our parents. I can hardly imagine my kids not growing up with this same freedom.

When a colleague moved to the USA with his kids aged 10, 12 and 15 they immediately felt deprived of this freedom. Much to the surprise of their parents which had not realized how much freedom their children where used to.

Nico said...

"Sometimes they give the students instructions for where they should go, and leave them to find their own way"

Blimey, if you believe the Daily Fail over here entire classes would be kidnapped by illegal tax dodging paedophile immigrants. Or they'd die in a collision with an articulated lorry because they didn't wear a helmet.