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Govt halves primary school bike safety program

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The State Government has halved the number of children eligible for its primary school bike and road safety program under a new contract, which the Transport Minister said was put out to tender to increase the number of children in the program.

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The Way2Go program teaches children aged 9-to-13 how to ride bicycles and scooters, and how to use public transport and walk safely along roads and footpaths.

About 8000 students have gone through the program in each of the past four years.

The program was put out to competitive tender last year, in a move Transport Minister Stephan Knoll described as a means to increase the number of children that would be put through the program.

“We are going out to tender to see if we can get a more competitive rate so we can put more children through this road safety education program,” said Knoll at the time.

“The Way2Go Bike Ed program is a fantastic program that helps educate South Australian kids about being safe on our roads.”

But documents released as part of the tender, which closed last week, show the Government plans to cut the program in half, to 4000 students each year.

InDaily asked the Minister’s office whether he intended to clarify his December statement, but we have not received any further comment.

The tender documents, published online, say that the program “will be delivered to up to 4000 students from across approximately 50-60 schools each year, but annual participation numbers may vary depending on funding and government priorities”.

Minutes of a mid-January briefing to competing tenderers, also published online, show that one applicant asked:

“The number of kids has dropped from 8000 to 4000 annually, is that purely budget?”

“Yes, the program prior to the last contract was conducted for 4000 kids annually and only increased up to 8000 in the last four years,” is the recorded answer.

According to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, the Way2Go program:

The program is loved by students and teachers across SA.

Bicycle Institute of South Australia vice chairperson Ian Radbone told InDaily: “We are very sad to hear that the number of young kids in SA having the opportunity to take part in the excellent Way2Go Bike Ed program will halve.”

“This program is all about encouraging kids to be active … many (participants) become regular riders to school; an easy way to get some exercise and have fun too,” he said.

“The program is loved by students and teachers across SA.”

He added that “building activity into kids’ every day life is the easiest way to help them be healthy”.

Heart Foundation CEO SA/NT Imelda Lynch told InDaily today that “over 70 per cent of children do not meet physical activity recommendations”, arguing the State Government should increase support for programs that encourage active travel.

“Rates of active travel to school have declined substantially in Australia since the 1970s, with walking and cycling trips replaced mainly by car trips,” she said.

“The Heart Foundation calls for the State Government to boost children’s active school travel.

More needs to be done to create safe, active catchments areas around schools that prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, and provide bike education for all children.”

The new contract is due to start on May 1, 2020.

Bike SA CEO Christian Haag declined to comment.

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