Lessons for life: Young cyclists learn rules of the road from Vélo Québec

Through its Cycliste averti program, almost 3,000 Grade 5 and 6 students will get theoretical and on-the-road bike instruction from Vélo Québec.

This year, almost 3,000 kids in Grade 5 and 6 will get theoretical and on-the-road bike training

Thomas Bolton signals that he is slowing down as he takes his final test with the Cycliste averti program. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

His helmet strapped on snugly and wearing a bright yellow vest, Thomas Bolton takes to the streets of Westmount on his bicycle. 

Following closely behind the Grade 5 student is Hubert Salvail, an instructor with Vélo Québec.

Extending his left arm, Bolton crooks it at the elbow and points his palm downwards, signalling to cars that he is about to stop.

Then he bikes forward — a big mistake.

"It's a red light, Thomas," Salvail says. "You crossed on a red."

Bolton is participating in Vélo Québec's Cycliste averti program, which tries to prepare elementary school students for life on the road on a bicycle.

On Wednesday morning, students at Saint-Léon-de-Westmount School were taking their final test.

"Our goal is that this would become a mandatory program," said Vélo Québec's program manager, Magali Bebronne, "that every child going through primary school would get out of primary school knowing how to ride a bike safely." 

Learning how to cycle safely in Montreal

5 years ago
Duration 0:35
Thomas Bolton rides around Westmount, Que. as part of an initiative to teach kids how to safely ride their bikes.

Being road safe

A few years ago, Vélo Québec noticed that come time to get on bikes, some kids didn't know how to ride them.

"We used to take for granted that parents would teach their children how to ride a bike," Bebronne said. 

"Now, in almost every school we come to, every group, we have two, three, sometimes four students who have never learned to ride a bike."  

When the program began in 2015, 150 students took part.

This year, almost 3,000 kids in Grade 5 and 6 will get theoretical and on-the-road instruction from the cycling advocacy organization.

"Clearly, it shows that more and more parents are discovering that these lessons are important."

Thomas Bolton demonstrates key cycling signals:




You can also extend your right arm outward.

Thomas Bolton is full of smiles as he takes his cycling test. (He passed!) (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)


Sarah Leavitt


Sarah Leavitt is a multimedia journalist with CBC who loves hearing people's stories. Tell her yours: or on Twitter @SarahLeavittCBC.