A peloton of brightly coloured bicycles will be gliding along the roads and cycleways of the Illawarra this week, with hundreds of new bikes gifted to eager teenagers on Thursday.
The Happiness Cycle event rolled into the Snakepit at Beaton Park, with hundreds of local kids registering to get a new bike as part of a fitness program from The Bicycle Network and Coca-Cola.
Local teenagers were given the choice of a fixed-gear, BMX or mountain bike to take home.
“It will be a lot easier for me to get around now,” said 17-year-old Benjamin Smith.
“It’s a great program. Bikes cost a lot of money and some kids might not be able to afford it.”
More than 350 young people registered for the program. Recipients met at the Snakepit to assemble their bikes with the help of 30 volunteers, including bicycle mechanics from Simple Cycles and retired police officers. Riders were then put through their paces with a safety course outside.
“I think it will be very beneficial to everyone and help a lot of kids who would be walking the streets,” agreed Allana Young, 16.
Tess Allaway, general manager for behaviour change at the Bicycle Network, said students from 23 schools around the Illawarra had signed up for the program.
“It’s not just about today, it’s about putting physical activity into their everyday lives,” she said.
“Studies show if you’re active physically, you are happier in other parts of your life. Socially and physically, bikes are great for kids.”
Mark Pietruszewski, a teacher’s aide at the Alesco Learning Centre Illawarra, accompanied a group of his students. He said the event’s benefits stretched beyond the physical.
“It gives the kids a bit of responsibility, something to look after,” Mr Pietruszewski said.
‘‘A lot of these kids might have never had a new bike.
“It can give them confidence, to have something new of their own.”