On the use of naturalistic methods to examine safety-relevant behaviours amongst children and evaluate a cycling education program
Journal article, 2017
School-based cycling education programs aim to improve cycling safety and participation amongst children. Available research suggests that typical programs, which focus on bicycle manoeuvring skills, have limited effects on behaviour observed on a track or planned route. The current study uses theoretically more valid, naturalistic cycling data, to evaluate Safe Cycle, a program that incorporates hazard and selfawareness training. Soon after Safe Cycle was delivered at treatment schools, research bicycles instrumented with a rearward- and a forwardfacing
camera were loaned to six children from treatment schools and six children from (waitlist) control schools. In each group half the children were in Year 6, and half were in Year 7/8. Each child was instructed to ride the research bicycle instead of their own bicycle for the 1-2 weeks
that they had a research bicycle. Video data were reduced using a purpose-designed coding scheme that identified whether participants performed specific safety-relevant behaviours in appropriate circumstances. While the participants controlled their bicycles well, gave way appropriately to traffic at intersections, and stopped at red lights, participants frequently removed one or both hands from the handlebars, and seldom signalled turns, conducted over-shoulder-checks when changing lanes, or looked in multiple directions at intersections (except when crossing a road). While aspects of design and small sample sizes limited evaluation findings, this research demonstrated the feasibility and potential of naturalistic data to support cycling education program evaluation. Further, the study substantially extended available naturalistic study of children's cycling behaviour to highlight behaviours which might be targeted by cycling safety initiatives.