Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bicycle Safety for Kids

I came to work yesterday to the news that another student was hit by a car while coming to school. This happens with unacceptable frequency, and although this student only had some cuts and bruises, not all of my students have been so fortunate. I was interested to read this article about a successful “bicycle license” system for kids. One of my elementary schools has a similar system for fourth graders. They aren’t supposed to ride bicycles before then. There isn’t a license exactly, but we set up a road simulation and have them practice doing head checks before taking off, stopping at stop signs and that sort of thing.

Japanese elementary school playground turned into a road safety course
Bicycle Training at School

While the kids do ride like maniacs, the adults driving the cars are the ones that are really scary. Japan’s car licensing system does not require much driving on an actual road; almost all the practice and all of the testing is carried out in closed systems without other cars/cyclists/pedestrians around. I highly doubt that a first world country exists with a worse average level of driving ability than Japan’s. I saw a car mow down a cyclist just outside my house recently, and the driver didn’t even notice that an accident was happening until the bicycle was so mangled in the car wheel that the car stopped.
A few months ago, in the chill of Winter, a different school told me that there was a two hour police presentation on bicycle safety going on in the gym and could I was expected to attend. The gym was freezing and I was less than enthused, but the presentation was much more exciting than I had expected. It looked like this

Which is reason #54,000 why Japanese elementary schools are simply awesome.
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  1. When I first came here I couldn't believe the lack of bike helmets. It took me 3 years to get the school to write "it is safer to wear a bike helmet" on their bike safety sheet. They wouldn't write it originally because it wasn't compulsory and therefore would be putting pressure on parents to provide their children with helmets when it wasn't part of the law..... gotta love logic sometimes! That seems to be improving slightly, but still has a way to go.

  2. The thing that most terrifies me is the parents riding around with infants on bicycles unrestrained and without helmets. I have a neighbour who drives his scooter around with his little boy crouched in the foot-well (no helmet of course). Definitely a long way to go I think :)


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