Edmonds program shows youngsters bicycling basics

Taylor Lang takes a spin in the Maplewood gym. See a short video of the bicycle class below.

A group of bicycle enthusiasts in Edmonds have joined forces with a Seattle-based bicycle club and the Edmonds School District to help schoolchildren learn a skill not normally found in P.E. class: how to ride a bike.

For several years, the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group (EBAG) tried to start a bicycle safety program for local children, but found it ineffective, said member Hank Landau. That’s because group members spent most of their time fixing the bicycles the children brought to ride – with little time left over for actual instruction.

Enter the Cascade Bicycle Club, which was already running a Basics of Bicycling program for third through sixth graders in the Seattle, Lake Washington and Highline school districts, and worked with EBAG to expand the program to Edmonds. Landau, along with EBAG members Peter Hallson and Peter Block, secured support of the Edmonds School District to incorporate Basics of Bicycling into district P.E. classes, although Landau was quick to credit Mountlake Terrace Elementary P.E. teacher Jennifer Hershey for encouraging the district to see the program’s benefits.

The next step? Raising the money to purchase 60 bicycles to serve all 21 Edmonds School District elementary schools, plus two trailers to move the bikes from school to school.

The Edmonds-based Hazel Miller Foundation awarded EBAG a $2,500 grant and the B.I.K.E.S Club of Snohomish County donated $1,000, to support the purchase of 30 bicycles plus helmets and related equipments like traffic cones, which help the children learn to navigate turns. And Cascade Bicycle Club gave the Edmonds bicycle group a $6,000 loan to purchase a trailer.

The money raised was enough to launch the program, with the goal of securing additional donations in early 2011 to fund the remaining bicycles and second trailer so that all schools can be served. EBAG will also be implementing at a later date a Safe Routes to Schools bicycle program for students in grades 5 to 8, funded through the Washington State Department of Transportation.

One of the first schools to get the Basics of Bicycling Class was Maplewood K-8 in Edmonds, where third graders in Jenni McCloughan’s P.E. class gathered just before winter break to learn a variety of skills. On the day we visited, the lesson focused on the appropriate hand signals for left- and right-hand turning, slowing down and stopping. Following instruction, the children had an opportunity to ride around the gym in circles, with the more adventurous students speeding off outside on the playground. Children who didn’t yet feel confident getting on a bicycle navigated the course on foot-powered scooters.

“I just see so much value in this program,” McCloughan said. “Many of our students don’t have access to bicycles because they live in apartments or they don’t have a safe place to ride. Bicycling is a lifelong sport; you can do it when you’re young or do it when you’re old.”

As for Landau, he is grateful for all those who worked so hard to make the program a reality, and asked that they be publicly acknowledged here:

Cascade Bicycle Club – Chuck Ayres, Julie Salathe, Kat Sweet

Edmonds School District – Jennifer Hershey, Sue Venable, Lara Drew, Doug Johnson, Guin Joyce, Gaylynne Ullerich

City of Edmonds – Bertrand Hauss, Adrian Fraley-Monillas, Strom Peterson, Steve Bernheim

City of Mountlake Terrace – Will Vanry

Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group – Peter Block, Peter Hallson, Fred Bonallo, Janice Corbett, Jan Neimi, Thayer Cueter, John Larpenteur, Roy Chapel, Warren Bare, Dwight Thompson

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