Mark West Elementary School 4th grader’s couldn’t contain their excitement when asked about their experience participating in their October 18th Bicycle Rodeo:
“I was so excited because it was my first time riding a bike at school and learning the rules of the road.” ~Audrianna
“I learned safety rules I didn’t know before like riding in the same direction as traffic. The courses were awesome. The instructors were very nice. It was a great experience” ~Evan
“I liked how the volunteers fitted our helmets. A mechanic also fixed a tire that popped!” ~Michael
“Now it feels like I can ride safely.” ~Selena
Over 1500 4th graders at 18 Sonoma County Schools and an additional 250+ participants at 4 community events received on bicycle education and maintenance in 2013, thanks to the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition’s Safe Routes to School program, mechanics from local bicycle shops, and officers from local law enforcement agencies. A minimum of 11 additional sites and at 700-1000 4th grade students will receive on-bicycle education services in April, May, or June 2014. Additionally, 6th grade students at Brookhaven and Windsor Middle School will receive on-bicycle education this Spring. The SCBC/SRTS bicycle education program is led by SCBC Education Manager and League of American Bicyclist Certified Instructor Michelle Nikolayew, and staffed by enthusiastic & experienced bicycle education contractors.
“Our 4th Grade on-Bicycle Education program (aka “bike rodeo”) is one of the most popular and effective components of our SRTS program,” says Tina Panza, Director of Safe Routes to School for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. “Teachers, students and parents universally love it and tout its value. It is a unique opportunity for students to get “hands on” bicycle safety & skill instruction in a safe environment, and have fun in the process. Students have their helmets fitted – many receive new helmets – and their bicycles are inspected for safety, with minor repairs and adjustments made as needed. After a session or two of in class instruction and the bicycle rodeo, kids are equipped with the basic tools they need to begin their journey of safe bicycling.”
Tina also emphasized that the SCBC/SRTS Bicycle Education program would not be a success without the support and involvement of numerous mechanics from local bicycle shops, who arrive early in the morning to inspect and repair anywhere from 30-80 bicycles before the first class is ready to roll. Although the bicycle shops receive a nominal fee to reimburse for materials, travel and equipment, their services are primarily donated. The Bike mechanics often go beyond the call of duty in making bikes ride-able and safe for the kids. If bicycles are deemed unsafe, children receive a checklist indicating what needs to be repaired to make their bicycle safe, and the student borrows a SRTS loaner bike for the rodeo course.
“There are so many details to take care of every day on the rodeos, having such great communication, punctuality and professionalism from the bicycle shops helps the day run smoothly. They sometimes come to communities outside their shop’s radius, knowing that they aren’t even vying for potential customers. The bikes are often in need of lots of help, and what they do is truly for the sake of the kids and the love of bikes,” said Michelle Nikolayew.
Dana Martin, Community Engagement Director at Mikes Bike’s said “We are always excited to support cycling related programs in Bay area communities. The Safe Routes to School Bicycle Education/Rodeo program provides us with an excellent opportunity to promote safety by inspecting and repairing bikes and educating kids. We are thrilled to hear stories about schools that have increased bike ridership and/or safety as a result of their bike rodeos. We congratulate SCBC/SRTS for leading these efforts and we are honored to be involved.”
Representatives from local law enforcement agencies are present at the vast majority of bicycle rodeos as well (barring unforeseen emergencies). Police officers visit classrooms and conduct bicycle/pedestrian safety talks before kids go out on the course, often fielding numerous questions from the students. Many stick around and help monitor the on-bicycle course as well, often giving out positive “good behavior” tickets along the way to kids who demonstrate safe riding skills.“Our kids love this event. It's a great opportunity for them to learn hands-on bike safety. We are very appreciative of the partnerships that support this event. The instructors are fantastic and the bike shops do a great job of taking care of minor repairs. Our 3rd graders are already looking forward to their 4th grade Bike Rodeo.” Jenny Young, Principal Sheppard Elementary School, Santa Rosa.