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Cycle skills . . . Wearing his brand-new bike helmet, Cooper Davidson (7), originally of Oamaru and now of Timaru, practises his cycle skills at the learn-to-ride bike park at Friendly Bay on Tuesday. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN

The school year is starting back up next week, which means cycle and road safety is again a big focus for riders and schools in the Waitaki district.

Pembroke School principal Brent Godfery said 60-70 Pembroke pupils often used bikes and scooters to get to school.

It was important that children had been taught “common sense” around cycling and had developed the skills to stay safe on the road, he said.

Ultimately, it was a parent’s responsibility to make sure children were riding safely when on the footpath or out on a road.

An important part of general road safety in schools was teaching pupils how to stay safe on the roads and around their own schools, Mr Godfery said.

“We hammer it to the parents as much as we can – if you’re dropping off or picking your kid up, don’t park on the other side of the road and call them.

“Cross the road with your kid, rather than park on the other side of the road and sit in your car waiting, because the kids will just shoot across the road.

“That’s as much a danger as cycle safety.”

Mr Godfery expected parents to walk with younger children when they biked or scootered to school.

North Otago cycling advocate Adair Craik expressed concerns for schoolchildren using bikes and scooters throughout the region.

Her biggest concern over cycle safety was that local drivers were not taking enough caution when driving around children.

“Drivers aren’t watching out for kids on bikes any more,” Ms Craik said.

“They’ve become almost intolerant to cyclists, no matter what age.”

She said “quite a bit” needed to be done to help educate drivers regarding cycle safety.

Road safety co-ordinator Elton Crane also weighed in on the topic of cycle safety in Oamaru.

Mr Crane thought using active transport was important because it helped people develop an understanding of sharing the road.

“Your children will copy your road safety skills, so make sure they understand the risks they will be facing and give them confidence and the abilities to safely cross the road.”

He said the benefits from using active transport included better fitness, less pollution and saving money.

Inspector Peter McKennie, road policing manager of operations for New Zealand Police, stressed the importance of road safety at the start of the school year.

“The summer holidays are long and that means some children might have forgotten some of the basic rules they need to follow to keep themselves safe,” Insp McKennie said.