Fietspoolen Cycle train
In Flanders as in many other regions and countries children were
driven to school by car instead of walking or cycling on their own.
There are various reasons for this behaviour, i.e. safety reasons,
convenience when combining trips, the weather, etc. Due to their
daily cartrips children have less experience in cycling in daily
traffic and lost a part of their independency. "Mobiel 21"
(previously "Langzaam Verkeer") thought of ways to convince parents
to let their children cycle to school in a safe way and to offer
them a sustainable alternative. The objective is to make children
more experienced and independent in traffic. Therefore, the project
"fietspoolen" had been developed: A "fietspool" is a kind of cycle
train, a small group of clearly recognisable children who cycle
along a known route under the guidance of adult.
The "Bicycle Pool" in a nutshell
- Riding in a bicycle pool is cycling with a small, clearly recognizable group of children under the guidance of an adult.
- All children from primary schools can enter a bicycle pool.
- Small groups from the same area meet at a certain place and time to start cycling along a fixed route to school.
- A bicycle pool can be set step by step via a concrete action plan.
- The school and/or local authority support the bicycle pooling project.
- A small-scale start is the best!
2. Project Implementation
In 1998 the first cycle trains had been introduced in several
schools, municipalities, and regions in Flanders. Mobiel 21
provided guidance to schools, parents associations, municipalities
and regions interested to start their own cycle train projects.
At first, the parents and childrens interest in the projects has to be stimulated, and teachers as well as parents associations should support the project. It is useful to arrange an evening event for parents to give information about the project and to find coaches and assistants for the organization of bicycle pools.
To set up a project the following steps are suggested:
STEP 1: Bring together initiators for "cycle trains" of "Bicycle
STEP 2: Check the level of interest for being a bicycle pooler or a coach
STEP 3: Map the collected data
STEP 4: Set out routes on a map
STEP 5: Make a list of agreements
STEP 6: Additional tips for a good start
STEP 7: Monitoring and further awareness raising
Some of the breaking points in the success of the Bicycle Pools are the motivation and time of available coaches as well as the information provided on the extra insurance for them when guiding other children then their own.
3. Bike Pooling in East and West Flanders
The province of West-Flanders launched a call to all schools
interested in starting their own bicycle pooling project. These
schools were supported by Mobiel 21 to start up their project and
get individual counselling.
The province of East-Flanders stimulated bicycle pooling projects for all primary schools.
Mobiel 21 has the continuous task of supporting all schools and local authorities to set up bicycle pooling projects. All schools that had started their own projects received bicycle pooling material (i.e. helmets, fluoresecent jackets) from the province.
4. Increasing Interest for Cycle Trains in Flanders: Inventory and Evaluation 2005
Four years after the start in Flanders, effects of the project had been evaluated through a questionnaire and a random telephone survey at 190 schools. The amount of active schools with bicycle pools varies between 4.9% and 11.6%. The written questionnaire indicated that the number of children, bicycle groups and coaches of the pools maintained at a stable level. The survey by telephone indicated that bicycle pooling is a dynamic issue: while 11.6 % of the schools claimed to pool at the time of questioning, another 6.3% reported to have stopped the project at a certain moment. More than 80% of the Flemish schools knew the concept of bicycle pooling. Mostly, schools claimed a lack of interest by parents or school-boards as a reason for non-participating. The survey by telephone learned that 2.6% of the schools had concrete plans for a bicycle pool in the future, 7.4% considered to (re-)start the project.
A little more than half of the schools (51%) that have a cycling
train project were pooling throughout the year. Another 28.5% of
the schools reported to pool during specific periods of the year.
In these schools the Bicycle Pools were mostly active in
September-October (fall) and April-May-June (spring) with a
winter-break in-between. The school-board (81.9%) and parents
committee (71.4%) were often involved in the project, and also city
counsels (30.5%) and police forces (38.1%) were active.
During the school year 2001-2002 a total of 172 bicycle pool-groups were active. During the school year 2004-2005 a total of 317 groups were registered, with a constant average of four groups per school (see figure 1). A typical group contained about seven children. In 2001-2002, 1432 children came to school with a bicycle pool, which number increased to 2390 in 2004-2005 (see figure 2). Each school had 20 to 25 children that pool and five to seven coaches.
Most of the children wear reflecting clothing (77%) and a helmet (64%). Other attributes like ribbons or flags are seldom used. Because of the dynamic character of Bicycle Pooling it is important for the continuation of the project to find motivated coaches to accompany children outside their own family to school. Some parents do not want to take the responsibility because of the danger in traffic. On the other hand, the coaches notify that children who pool become sooner independent in cycling to school. Several schools indicate positive experiences between participants.
The fact that 80% of the schools in Flanders knew about Bicycle Pooling and 10% had plans for (re-)starting a pool-project is satisfying. It means that the project has high chances for extension.
A more extended Dutch version of the inventory results is available
- Insurance for coaches (approx. 25 Euro per person per year)
- Cycling helmets
- Cycling clothing (reflecting jackets)
- schools and local Schulämter