France's "Know how to bike" program is raising a nation of riders

France is sewing the seeds for a new generation of active travellers with a nationwide bike education program it hopes will inspire around 800,000 school children each year.

Savoir rouler à vélo (Know how to bike) was launched in 2018 as part of the French government's Plan Vélo, a National Cycling and Active Mobility Plan.

This massive €350 million plan for bikes included funding not just for new lanes and infrastructure (of which there is plenty), but the objective of making bike riding accessible to everyone from an early age.

The Savoir rouler à vélo (SRAV) program is geared towards children aged six to 11, working with schools to provide primary school students with 10 hours of lessons to get them on bikes.

Fundamentals such pedalling, braking and balance, how to navigate as part of a group and communication skills will be the first part of the program. From there, children will progress to riding on-road and learning how to get around independently.

The idea is that by the time children in France enter middle school, they are well-versed in the art of two-wheeled travel. In the four years after it was introduced, SRAV trained some 160,000 primary school children to ride a bike.

By prioritising neighbourhoods with high rates of unemployment, social housing, and limited access to public transit, SRAV is also introducing bikes to children who otherwise might not encounter them until later in life.

According to Next City, around 20% of students trained through SRAV have come from priority neighborhood districts.

In an update late last year, French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne committed a further €250 million to new bike paths and parking, and outlined the ambition of expanding the bike education program to train an entire age group, more than 800,000 children a year, by 2027.

There are some parallels between SRAV and Bicycle Network's Ride2School program, which gets children into the habit of bike riding through education sessions and initiatives like Open Streets.

National Ride2School day is Australia's biggest celebration of active transport, and earlier this year, a record-breaking 500 Victoria schools took part.

While supported by the Victorian and Tasmanian governments, Bicycle Network's Ride2School program is limited by its funding and has no backing from the Federal

The forward-thinking French program is an example of an ambitious national plan to encourage kids to be physically active, and a big-picture approach to making bikes central to mobility into the future.

More information on Bicycle Network's Ride2School program is available here.

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