When celebrity fitness coach Michelle Bridges was in primary school, roughly three-quarters of her generation would ride to school in Australia.
Now for her seven-year-old son Axel and his contemporaries, it’s one in four.
That significant drop-off has prompted the new AusBike learn to ride program, which is targeted at children aged 5-12.
AusCycling has launched the program, with the backing of the federal government through the Australian Sports Commission.
“I know that with the accredited coaches he is being taught the right way to ride to not only build confidence on two wheels, but to do it safely,” Bridges said of Axel.
Along with Bridges’ star power, AusBike has significant input from top-level Australian cyclists.
Former road professional Brenton Jones is a coach in the program, while three-time Olympic track sprinter Matt Glaetzer and Paralympic gold medallist Paige Greco were at Monday’s launch at the Anna Meares Velodrome in Brisbane.
Unfortunately for Glaetzer, Bridges wasn’t there as well.
“I grew up watching her on TV, on The Biggest Loser – so hopefully we can cross paths,” he said.
“I remember doing something vaguely similar when I was a young kid, but it wasn’t to this degree. It wasn’t as structured or as professionally developed.
“It’s really good to be part of a program to help future generations enjoy their bikes.”
Glaetzer will help run AusBike clinics in Adelaide, where he lives.
Australian Sports Commission chief executive Kieren Perkins wants AusBike to have the same impact as the learn to swim programs that have become a rite of passage for most children in this country.
Also, the more children riding bikes mean more youngsters who might want to take up cycling as a sport.
“We’ve seen swimming lessons become an important part of childhood and we’ve got the opportunity to ensure the next generation of Australians see the importance of also learning to ride in a similar way,” Perkins said.
“Logan Martin’s BMX freestyle gold at Tokyo two years ago, and major events on home soil like the 2022 road world championships in Wollongong are helping show Australians of all ages what’s possible on two wheels and inspire the next generation to ride safely and have fun.”