Queenstown Lakes District Walk 'n' Wheels a great success

20 April 2012

For the second year running, Queenstown Lakes District Council in partnership with NZ Police, Racers Edge, Element, and school communities in both Queenstown and Wanaka, organised the annual Walk ‘n’ Wheels Week. 

This was part of a region-wide campaign led by Sport Otago, supported locally by Sport Central.  The event highlighted safe journeys to school by encouraging children to walk and wheel whenever and wherever they could – and to do so safely - whether it was to the bus stop or to school.  Seven schools officially took part, but a further two schools also ran activities during the week. 

Arrowtown School wanted their senior students to be better equipped to ride to school independently. The NZ Transport Agency recommends that children under ten years old should not ride unsupervised in traffic.  Tim Young, the school’s Deputy Principal devised a town route which took in all the key intersections children would need to negotiate to make a safer journey to school.  Use of ‘green spaces’, a list of hazards and a map were all supplied to the 15 or so parent volunteers who helped on the day.

Constable Beth Fookes and Kirsty Barr (Queenstown Lakes District Council school travel planner) rode with small groups stopping at each ‘hazard station’ to talk about the challenges facing young cyclists and tips on what they could do to keep safe on the road.  The ride was so successful, everyone decided they wanted to repeat it again in term 4 and make it available to even more students. 

Remarkables Primary School year 1-3 students ventured out on guided safe-walking tours. Children learned how to use zebra crossings, as well as crossing points (islands with pedestrian refuges on the road), and how to use signalled crossings across the busy state highway that runs through Frankton.  The rain didn’t dampen enthusiasm either - safety staff were able to demonstrate how wet roads affected safety for young pedestrians while the students saw the opportunity to use their favourite umbrellas! 

Teacher Brendon Martyn has been leading the programme over the whole of term one around safe riding.  The programme has covered health benefits, bike and helmet safety and safe routes, road rules and hazards and bike maintenance.

“This is a great initiative and could be a model that is used in other schools,” said Ms Barr.

Meanwhile, St Joseph’s School year 3-8 students practised a number of exercises, including the ‘slow race’, which showed how mastering control over anything on wheels slowly leads to safer riding overall. 

In Wanaka, Hawea Flat School also encouraged walking and wheeling during the week, including a triathlon taster.  The programme gave students a classic introduction into the world of triathlons and has no doubt planted the seed for many future triathletes!

Senior students at Wanaka Primary and Holy Family Schools joined forces to compete in the first ever Cycle Championship which assessed students on road safety awareness, bike and helmet safety and their practical skills. 

Ms Barr reports the Walk ‘n’ Wheels week has been a very successful event with nearly 2000 students involved in the Wanaka and Queenstown areas.  Schools have described full to over-flowing bike parks (despite adverse weather!). 

Another positive outcome for the week was the level of community involvement.  Road safety agencies, local businesses, families, students and schools all came together to work on the common goal of increasing safe and healthy travel choices for the young people in the Queenstown Lakes district.