Saturday 25 November 2017

Garda doles out points to misbehaving child cyclists

Student from Ratoath National School Sean Johnson with his Bike Licence Pic Seamus Farrelly
Student from Ratoath National School Sean Johnson with his Bike Licence Pic Seamus Farrelly
Ratoath Student Sean Johnson Showing his Skills after recieving his Bike Licence at Ratoath National School

A Meath garda was so fed up receiving public complaints about kids on bikes, she decided to dole out penalty points to the young cyclists.

Community Garda Ashling Connor introduced the feared points system as part of her own safer cycling scheme, which is about to be rolled out in Ashbourne and other areas nationwide.

Under the novel programme, children from fourth class upwards receive their own ‘driving licence’ and registration plate for the bike, but they face getting slapped with penalty points if they don’t follow three golden rules.

“If they don’t wear a helmet, follow the safe cross code and dismount from their bikes before entering school grounds, they get a penalty point,” Gda Connor explained.

She teamed up with Meath Co Council’s Road Safety Officer Mick Finnegan for the initiative, which is also supported by the Road Safety Authority and Eurolink. All children first undertake a safer cycling course before they get their clean licence.

“Both children and their parents have to sign contracts saying they’ll adhere to the rules before they receive their licence and registration number plate,” Gda Connor said.

“The cyclists are scrutinised by the bike police, which are chosen school pupils, and any child that breaks the rules gets a penalty point. This means they don’t get a reward at the end of the year, so you can imagine they take it very seriously.”

Over 300 pupils have completed the programme since it was introduced at Ratoath NS and St Paul’s NS in Ratoath last year, and it has proved so successful that Gda Connor and Mr Finnegan plan to extend it into other schools in Ashbourne.


They also hope to introduce the safety course to younger students to teach them good habits.

“It’s amazing how many children cycle without helmets or without reflective jackets. It’s like learning to wear a seat belt, the earlier you get used to it the better chance it will form a habit for life.”

Mr Finnegan said: “This initiative has been hugely successful because the children themselves are driving it. It’s the peer pressure from the students that are making sure they all keep their licences clean.”

The programme has been so well-received that community gardai and other schools across the country are keen to roll it out.

And, since the scheme was introduced, Gda Connor’s phone is no longer so busy.

“Complaints used to be about cyclists on footpaths or disregarding pedestrians and motorists. Callers were also worried they would be hurt in accidents by their cycling behaviour.

“Since this started, I haven’t had one more complaint,” she laughed.

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