Manufacturing specialist at RAF Lossiemouth, Neil Richardson talks about learning the rules, transferable skills and having fun whatever the weather.
My job takes me to many places and this time we ended up moving as a family up to RAF Lossiemouth. We live just outside in the village. When we lived down in Peterborough, in the Stamford area, I was involved with Sustrans. I used to look after a section of the National Cycle Network because it went past my house.
I want my kids to ride bikes, and I want all the kids to ride bikes because when I was young, it's how we got about. We had the freedom to get on our bikes and go however far we wanted where we lived. I want that for my kids and I want that for their friends. Teaching them to ride safely is the first step into getting them to do that. Once the kids start it opens up so many horizons to them. They can get out and go places. They don't have to rely on their parents to go to the next village or the next town and just start that exploring like all kids need to do.
Being an avid cyclist you think you know all the rules. It's not until you go back, and you actually break down what you're doing. It was a real eye opener. Your road positioning and signalling and why we're doing stuff and why we got taught it. You just assume that everybody can ride a bike. When you first go into the training, you think kids can ride bikes, kids know road positioning, kids know road safety and invariably they don't.
Some of the kids are a bit nervous when you first take them out on the roads. It's just instilling that discipline in the road position, mainly. They're all really good. I don't think I've ever had any kids come out that didn't want to do it. I've never had any kid that couldn't do it with a little bit of encouragement. And, at the end of it, I've never had a kid that I wasn't happy saying they were safe be issued their Level 2.
Being mega enthusiastic helps with the kids. They love to see an enthusiastic instructor. So give it all your energy and you'll get loads more out of it. And also it crosses over to your daily work because you go there to train, to deliver, and you want an outcome. How can I get the best outcome? If I'm enthusiastic, if I've got the energy, if I only concentrate on the positives, not the negatives, I get the best outcome in the playground or on the road. You bring that back to work and you do exactly the same. You get better outcomes at work. It doesn't just come across in Bikeability. It's almost like life hacks.
Even if you've rode around that housing estate 100 times before with different groups, you just make out to them [that] you've never been there before. "You show me where we are going, you show me where you cycle every day, you show me what you do after school." And in that way, you can put safe practices into their everyday routine. They're not riding around somewhere that's alien to them. It's where they live and play every day.
The cycle hire scheme came about just after I'd done my Level 3 training and it was a way of [helping] people wanting to hire an e-bike. You just assume that when you hire a bike to somebody, they can ride a bike, or they can drive a car. They could be 18, 19, 20 years old. And you need to know that they can move around on the road safely. Normally you just assume they can do that. We know they can't. My Level 3 and Cycle Ride Leader covers that off from a risk aspect. So I can assess people when they come in, ask them if they can drive a car, if they can, if they've got a driving license, that's a tick. Can you ride a bike? Yes. Show me riding a bike around and then they can go off and hire one of our e-bikes. From what I got from Outfit Moray for delivering at [a] primary school level has gone on to helping me deliver what I want to do at work with the e-bike scheme and the hire bike scheme.
This one particular lad, he doesn't drive, [and] he'd never been taught to ride a bike. I've got two cargo bikes and a normal one. [Now] he can just jump on one of the cargo bikes and he'll be off round station, running the errands, delivering parts, picking parts up. Whereas before it would be a case of somebody would have to get in a van and drive him round. Now he can just jump on an e-bike and go off and do his bits.
There's a big hill and on the top of it is a primary school. And we were up on this hill, and it was sleeting. Sideways rain, sideways sleet. There were kids coming out in shorts and t-shirts and they just weren't bothered. They weren't bothered at all. You were thinking - what am I doing standing up here? But then when the kids come out, they want to get on with it because they love it. At that point, it was like, well, these kids really want to put the effort in. I think that really sealed it for me.
Every other session I've delivered since then, I've never thought to myself, what am I doing standing here? If you go there with the right attitude, lots of energy, lots of fun, make it fun and what you put into it you will get back tenfold.
Neil is a Bikeability Scotland volunteer in Moray.
Interested in becoming a Bikeability Scotland volunteer?
Would you like to be involved in helping to teach children to ride confidently and safely?
The first step is to contact your Bikeability Scotland Coordinator to find out if your local area needs volunteers.