Bikes in Schools: Intro


The Bike On New Zealand Charitable Trust (CC44779) is a registered charity whose main objective is to enable and help as many New Zealand children as possible to ride a bike on a regular and equal basis within the school through its ‘Bikes in Schools’ project.

We offer free advice about project managing, funding and implementation to any school in New Zealand interested in the Bikes in Schools project.

Using the knowledge and experiences gained from working with schools all over New Zealand, this “guide and template” attempts to explain the what, why and how of understanding and implementing a Bikes in Schools (or similar) project.

What is Bikes in Schools?

Bikes in Schools is a recommended complete biking package implemented within a school that enables all students to ride a bike on a regular basis.

The full recommended package includes:

  • a fleet (30 to 50) of new good quality bikes (usually four different sizes)
  • a good quality bike helmet for every child
  • combination of riding, pump and bike skills tracks
  • bike storage solution (where needed)
  • intro cycle skills training to teach basic riding and safety skills

The school owns all the bikes and helmets, and they remain on the school property. The tracks are built on the school property. The school also owns the storage solution (e.g. converted shipping container or bike shed).

This Bikes in Schools package can be complemented by a Travelwise Safe School Travel Plan (in Auckland) or other similar local Council active transport and school road safety programmes and locally provided cycle skills training programmes such as Pedal Ready (in Wellington).

Why Bikes in Schools?

Over the last 20 years, there has been a dramatic fall in biking by New Zealand primary school-aged children. This has resulted in many children not being able to experience “the joy of biking” and the many social and health impacts that result from biking regularly.

  • Between 1990 and 2014 the average time biked by New Zealand’s 5-12yr olds has fallen from 28 minutes per week to just 4 minutes per week. (Ministry of Transport 2015)
  • Between 1990 and 2014 the average distance biked by New Zealand’s 5-12yr olds has fallen from 2.8 km per week to just 0.5 km per week. (Ministry of Transport 2015)

(Source: Ministry of Transport NZ Household Travel Survey)

The Impacts

What is the main directly measurable impact of the Bikes in Schools?

Regular access to and riding a bike goes from approximately 30% of the students to 100% of the students. This impact is both immediate and measurable.

What are the other positive impacts of Bikes in Schools?

Feedback from Principals, teachers, parents, cycle skills providers and students continually states that it;

  • Raises the confidence, self-esteem and resilience of pupils through a fun activity
  • Delivers health and wellbeing outcomes for the pupils (and staff)
  • Provides an opportunity to self-manage risks within a safe environment
  • Instils the habit of using a bike for basic transportation
  • Results in the children and extended family biking more often
  • Pupils gain knowledge, skills and confidence to ride safely for when they might ride outside of school

Please see this Biking Builds Resilience at Pinehaven School article for examples of these outcomes.

Measures of Success

Why is Bikes in Schools successful?

  • Impact: It generates positive impacts for all the children
  • Demand: All children want to ride bikes
  • Supply: A complete package is available on-site at the school
  • Effective: Provides a high level of regular biking/physical activity to an entire school
  • Simple: Low level of organisational input required from the school and teachers
  • Cost: Upfront average investment of only approx $200 per child ($60,000 per school)

What does the research data say about Bikes in Schools?

Independent research by the Eastern Institute of Technology tracked the impact of Bikes in Schools at three schools for two years through testing, surveys and focus groups with parents and teachers. A final report* was published in May 2013.

The three key findings from the report:

  1. Parents and teachers across all the three educational facilities maintained a high level of engagement in the project. Teachers continued to incorporate the Bikes in Schools p into the 2012 curriculum.
  2. Teachers reported many physical benefits including; increased physical fitness, motor skills and coordination. This was supported by the data collected, which showed an increase in estimated VO₂max (a measure of aerobic fitness).
  3. Data collected for each of the intervention schools demonstrated that the percentage of obese children dropped from 2011 to 2012. This goes against the national trend, which has seen childhood obesity increase by 2% from 2006/7 to 2011/12.

* Maclaren, Forrest & Marshall, Final report on the 2012 Bikes in Schools project, 2013, Eastern Institute of Technology

Eastern Institute of Technology Research

Additional research by Mackie Consulting regarding a Bikes in Schools at Nga Iwi School in Auckland also highlights many positive outcomes of the project: Mackie Consulting Research.

A detailed Social Return on Investment report on Bikes in Schools details many of the project’s benefits and the very attractive returns it generates Our Social Return on Investment (SROI).

In 2017, ViaStrada Consultants completed a very detailed Bikes in Schools Programme Assessment for the Palmerston North City Council, which has resulted in the council confirming funding for additional schools. As reported in the local media, “So far, six schools are part of the programme, which has been hailed a success in a review by consultants ViaStrada, with more than 1600 children now riding more often, with better skills, and health benefits”.

In March 2018, Mackie Research released their Preliminary Report – Executive Summary. Bikes in Schools Short-term Evaluation. This report was commissioned and funded by ACC. The report, titled Fun, Active, Safe & Social, provides Preliminary findings, Recommendations and School snapshots.

In April 2019, Mackie Research released their Final Report – Bikes in Schools Evaluation, and there is also Bikes in Schools Evaluation Summary available. This report was commissioned and funded by ACC.

From this report, Mackie Research has also provided these two very informative and helpful handouts;

In December 2020, the Porirua City Council released their Riding Easy: Porirua Bikes in Schools Story. Louise Thornley wrote it for the Porirua Bikes in Schools network. 

We recommend that all schools review the above information, particularly the two-page Recommendations for Schools handout. This contains valuable information that will help schools maximise the outcomes from their Bikes in Schools projects.

Bikes in Schools 101 (PDF) Learn more