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From Rail Trails to School Routes - Interview with ByK Mum, Lucy O'Dwyer

Lucy O'Dwyer, mum of two ByK Riders, lives in Porepunkah in the beautiful Victorian High Country and owns the hugely popular Rail Trail Cafe with her husband, Jesse.  It is fair to say they love bikes - they have 8 in total at home (family of 4) and they're surrounded by them on a daily basis at work too!

We talked to Lucy to find out more about her life with bikes and kids and her successful Bike Rodeo skills programs at their local primary school.

What do you do?

I am a mother of two beautiful boys – one in Grade 3 and the other starting school next year. I volunteer at the school and in the community, and I co-own and run Rail Trail Cafe with my husband Jesse.

How did you come about owning the Rail Trail Cafe?
We didn't buy a cafe we created one! We had been living in Porepunkah since 2002 and absolutely loved the town, but felt that the only thing missing was a café.

So we approached the owner of the building and land (originally a butcher's shop - at the time I approached her she was using it as a makeshift holiday home). I asked if she'd consider selling it and she agreed. So we bought it and turned it into our very own cafe :)

Before opening the café I was teaching Phys Ed & Science at the local P-12 school. Jess was Head Chef at the Porepunkah Hotel.


How many children do you have?

What do you do in your spare time (pre-kids and post-kids!)
Pre-kids: Bike Riding, Horse Riding, Running, Swimming, Movies, Playing the piano, Eating out, BBQ's with friends, Travelling to see family in Melbourne & Los Angeles. Post-kids: As above but less Movies, Piano, BBQ's and travelling to and from Melbourne!

New things include driving kids to Mountain Bike club, gymnastics, cricket etc. But that's not really spare time now is it!

We've just recently purchased a family-sized hammock that we all like to relax in and look up at the sky through our beautiful trees. We also hang out on the trampoline, especially just before a storm when we see how long we can handle lying there as the rain (and sometimes hail) pelts down!

How many bikes live at your house?
8. One of them is a purpe and black four-wheeled quadricycle which comes complete with drink holders and a front seat for the kids. It's an awesome family ride!

rtc-kids-riding-on-quadricycle-900x471-webLucy riding her favourite family bike - the quadricycle - at the Rail Trail Cafe

What bikes do your kids own?

How do you and your kids use your bikes in daily life?
We use them to ride to and from the local shops, our cafe, friends' houses etc. My youngest also rides his, alongside (or nowadays way ahead of) me when I jog the 6km into our nearest neighbouring town.

Do your kids ride to school?

At what age do you think they would ride to school alone?
Our eldest now rides to school alone and has done since last year (when he was 8yrs old – mind you we ensured a slow transition with us watching and encouraging him with road crossings etc. for the first few times).

Our youngest has been riding to the transition days at school this term with our supervision and loves it!

In regards to riding to school, have you considered a bicycle bus to share the parenting supervision with other local families?
This seems to happen quite informally with one parent overseeing a number of children as they ride to school with road and driveway crossing.

There is definitely a great opportunity for such ideas in all communities – anything that helps encourage kids to choose active transport for school travel.

What do you think would make your ride to school route safer for kids?
There are a couple of mis-aligned crossing points that made it hard for the kids to cross safely and directly over the road. With the work we've been doing with the local council via our strong community group voice, changes have been made to improve things in this regard with more improvements to come in the future.

Where's your favourite family ride?
We love riding into Bright and playing at the Splash Park and enjoying ice-creams at Le Blanche Ice-Creamery.

bright-water-park-1200x628-webBright Splash Park

Do you take your bikes when you go away on holidays with the kids?
We do, in fact we recently purchased a new Thule bike rack which has made things much easier as all our bikes can now be loaded with no problems.

What bike gear could you not live without?
I love bike jerseys that I can stuff my arm warmers into as the weather heats up, and drink bottle holders of course!

What bike gear could your kids not live without?
My youngest absolutely loves his bike jerseys - in fact he wants to wear them to bed!

And they both love their ByK helmets – orange for the little one and green for the oldest.

What's your most endearing memory of riding bikes as a kid?
Hmmm.... It's not a very safe one but here goes: I was about 8 years old, and sitting on the handlebars as my big brother rode the bike (against my specific pleas) down the steep windy road and through the long grass!! It had hidden pot-holes and of course we ended up head over heels and sprawled out on the long grass – laughing uncontrollably. (Lucky we were wearing helmets!!)

What one piece of advice would you give to other parents who want to get their kids started in riding bikes?
Don't pressure them too much. Make it easy and fun. Having a destination goal (such as a cafe or ice-creamery helps!)

We found that starting on a balance bike negated the need for training wheels and made the transition so much easier onto a full pedal bike.

Also, think about spending the extra money on the ByK E-350x2i which has internal gearing when the time is right. It certainly made a big difference for our youngest as he could feel the difference and how much easier the pedalling became when he upgraded to this. (But without the hassle of having to learn how to change gears when he wasn't quite ready for that yet)

e350x2i-rtc--alpine-cycling-club-junior-development-day-oct15-skills-900x471-webLucy's son on his E-350x2i, learning skills at the Alpine Cycling Club Junior Development Day

What about a piece of advice for parents whose kids are showing interest in off-road or on-road cycling?
Join them up with the local cycling club. Ours – Alpine Cycling Club – has such a terrific junior program.

We take both the kids each Tuesday night to Junior Mountain Biking where they ride out with a group (and volunteer adult supervisors - including ourselves) exploring the terrain suited to their skill and confidence levels.

They also run junior skills workshops and the like and it's a great way to introduce kids to this terrific sport.

With regard to on-road cycling, I would again recommend seeking the advice and support of the local cycling club, as they would know how to begin slowly, which roads are the best for beginners etc.

510mtb-rtc-alpine-cycling-club-junior-development-day-oct15-ramp-900x471-webLucy's eldest son, on his 510MTB also learning skills at the Alpine Cycling Club Junior Development Day

What teaching tips do you have for mums and dads helping teach their kids to ride?
Again, keep it fun and minimise the feeling of pressure. I started up Bike Safety Rodeos at our local school a few years ago, and these are a great way for kids (and parents) to learn about the basics of balance, turning, braking and scanning in a fun safe environment.

The kids are split into small groups and rotate through a series of games and activities so that they're having fun while learning important skills and safety messages.

We even have a section of road closed off and park a car there so we can teach the kids about riding past at a safe distance and being aware of car doors opening, and the correct place to enter the road-space etc.

How did you go about starting the Bike Rodeo Program at your school?
I re-started the Ride2School HandsUp! count, through the Bicycle Network, which helps track how children travel to school. With the support of the Ride to School team and local Rotary Club, we were able to secure funding to bring a Cycling Safe training session to the school.

With 10 local volunteers training in the Department of Education's bicycle education program, we've run four Bike Safety Rodeo events already.

porepunkah-bike-rodeo-3-900x471-webPorepunkah School Bike Rodeo for Kids to Learn Bike Skills

porepunkah-bike-rodeo-6-900x472-webKids learning what it is like to ride past a parked car - essential bike skills training at the Porepunkah Primary School Bike Rodeo Day