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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Right to Bike youth cycling education framework (Velo-city Preview Part 1!)

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As more and more people take up cycling as their choice form of transportation, there are seemingly more and more interpretations to the rules of the road.  Right now this is largely due to a lack of standardized training that can be held up as common knowledge.  Lisa Slakov and the BC Cycling Coalition are looking to remedy this situation by implementing such a program in British Columbia.  The project is called Right to Bike: A provincial youth cycling education framework and its aim is to implement a province wide standard for you cycling education.

This framework is extremely important for preparing a new generation of cyclists for the road.   The UK’s Bikability program is one such standard that has proven to be very successful within a formal and familiar governmental system.  It consists of a three level approach that is taught to children based on their age.  The BC Cycling Coalition hopes to model their program after the Bikability system because of its completeness and proven success.  There are other models out there and programs run by small private groups, but the Bikability model is the best in terms of the scale that the program hopes to take.

The Right to Bike program is in its early stages, but already there is a lot of interest from groups such as the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver School Board, ICBC, Translink, the BC Lung Association and numerous other advocacy and transportation groups. Despite this support there is still a long way to go before is becomes a province wide standard, however.  Both more support and consultation with these organizations so the standard can be meaningful, is required.

The first step is to do a preliminary adaptation of a cycling education model like Bikability to see how it could be adapted for the British Columbian context. From there, a standards manual could be developed, and a pilot project introduced and evaluated.  Much of the stakeholders, interest groups and groundwork has already been identified.  The BC Cycling Coalition hopes to have a demonstration project running by the end of 2012.

The importance of having a well-defined cycling education system is paramount.  As more cyclists hit the road and municipalities begin to recognize and address this in their transportation plans, programs like Right to Bike become a need and an asset. There are already well-defined levels and training for auto users and having a similar well-defined and ubiquitous training for cyclists would reduce road conflict and increase health and safety to make cycling a more attractive and viable option for everyday travel.

As a youth-focused initiative, the BC Cycling Coalition hopes that the program will become as well-known, and as much a part of of growing up, as swimming lessons with the Red Cross. This organization and level system has worked for years and is widely known as a comprehensive and necessary physical education with its mixture of fitness and safely curriculum.

The BC Cycling Coalition believes that the climate is perfect for Right to Bike.  The political landscape in the lower mainland is bike-friendly and progressive.  There is much interest among various government and transportation agencies.  In the long term—and after successful demonstration projects—municipalities all over the province will be able to adopt the program.

The Velo-City conference next week in Vancouver will bring together active transportation and cycling professionals from all over the world.  It will be an excellent venue to show case this program and garner more support and insight. To learn more about the Right to Bike program watch for Lisa Slakov and the BC Cycling Coalition presentation on Wednesday afternoon of the conference.


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Andrew Cuthbert is a geomatics technician working in environmental consulting. He is an urban planning enthusiast and a 365 day per year cyclist.





  1. While it might seem monumental, I can’t think of a better reason for 3 things to happen simultaneously – which the province can push.

    1) Municipalities get funds designated specifically to beef up cycling infrastructure around schools – be it signed routes on quite streets, designated bike lanes on arterials, or shared off-road trails.

    2) The Phys Ed curriculum gets ammended to include cycling for kids for more than just a day/year. They can use areas around the the school and collect donated bikes for the bike-less to use.

    3) A public awareness campaign gets rolled out. We did it for the smoking bans, and have done it for other important PSAs – why not this?

    “Starting this September cycling will become part of the Physical Education curriculum for children in BC – How can you help? Use additional caution when driving around school zones and why not go for a bicycle ride too”