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Spotlight: Tablelands Drug Action Alliance LDAT’s Bike Bus

The Local Drug Action Team (LDAT) program supports community organisations to reduce harms from alcohol and other drugs (AOD) in their local area.

We take a look at the Tablelands Drug Action Alliance LDAT’s Bike Bus Too program and how primary school-aged children and families are benefitting from it.

Healthy lifestyles, teamwork and socialising in tropical north Queensland

Bike Bus is teaching Queensland primary schoolers a lot more than just safe cycling. Healthy lifestyles, teamwork and a chance to socialise are all part of its many benefits.

A couple of years ago, Mark Allen - principal at Malanda State School - started the ‘bicycle and scooter bus’ program where children ride to school together, along with parents and teachers, at least one day per week.

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Mark is so passionate about the program that he rides with them, every time.

Before work began on this current project, the LDAT conducted research and consulted with the community to see which programs already existed in the area that increase connection with families and young people. The LDAT linked in with the school to help fund and expand the Bike Bus project.

The Atherton Tablelands community’s LDAT is now supporting and extending Bike Bus to other schools in high needs areas.

Their challenge

Strength and confidence are important factors when alcohol or other drugs are presented to young people in later life.

Kristy Madden, Community Development Officer at LDAT lead organisation Better Together, says that the program encourages social connectedness and builds protective factors against alcohol and other drug harms.

“It assists with school attendance, has physical fitness benefits, allows students to become more aware of their community surroundings and allows positive parent engagement with their children,” she said.

“The benefits of the program in a primary school setting is early intervention.

“Interacting with other children and adults in their community, that they may not ever normally interact with, is far reaching in crossing cultural and social boundaries.”

The response

At Malanda, the ride consistently attracts over 30 cyclists - an amazing turnout considering the region is widespread and its frequent wet weather!

There are two routes with a 7.45am starting point on each side of town to cater for families living in opposite directions.

Each ride has a Bike Bus leader who is responsible for assessing any risks and making sure everyone stays together. Students are welcome to ride without a parent as there are always teachers on hand to help.

Kristy says they’ve had really successful engagement with the program with dads in particular.

The progress

The LDAT’s future goals are to grow and strengthen the program using the Malanda experience as the pilot. The team would like to bring on board three new schools this year.

Kristy said that the LDAT is helping schools with grant applications and developing their programs. This can involve mapping out routes around small community towns and getting funding for teacher participation, breakfasts on arrival or access to more spare parts.

Malanda is growing its bike refurbishment program to introduce even more students to the joys of cycling.

“It has a great relationship with local dump workers who keep aside any BMX bikes that come through for collection. These bikes are refurbished and gifted to children who would like to be part of the program but do not own and cannot afford a bike," said Kristy.

There are also plans to produce a training manual for any school interested in setting up the program.