Heathcote Primary School students were ahead of the pack this morning as they celebrated Ride2School Day, a week early, with a ride along the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

While the official Ride2School Day around the nation is next Friday, the school teamed up this morning with volunteers from the Friends of Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, who supported the students with a mid-week bike check-up and assistance with road crossings along the trail.

Acting principal, Lex Johnstone saw the day as great opportunity to promote the rail trail, which passes within 20 metres of the school’s back gate.

“This gives some kids a chance to ride on the rail trail for the first time and to maybe do a longer ride,” he said.

“Not all kids have the opportunity to do a five to six kilometre ride with their families.” 

The school’s Ride2School Day event started approximately six-kilometres from the school at the Mia Mia-Derrinal Road, with several pick up points along the way for students who lived closer or who wanted to ride a shorter distance.

Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail president Garry Long was only too keen to support the event.

“Our focus is on enabling people to experience off-road trails, including the O’Keefe Rail Trail,” he said.

“Developing an asset and encouraging people to use it is our core business, so we’re working with schools close to the rail trail.”

The group, which has a very active membership, has worked in the past with Axedale Primary School.

“One thing we noticed there was the increasing engagement of parents over time,” Mr Long said.

“Some of them who might not have ridden a bike since they were at school wanted to get on board – it reintroduced them to riding. We’re looking forward to developing a similar relationship with Heathcote Primary School.”

According to Bicycle Network, students who ride or walk to school contribute to their minimum physical activity level of 60 minutes per day.

They are also more focused and ready to learn compared to those who are driven.

With many local schools within a whistle’s blast of an off-road path or rail trail, Ride2School Day could be the perfect opportunity for students and parents alike to hop on a bike.