Bike weeks boot training wheels, teach safe riding skills
Trailnet staff visited Keysor and Robinson elementary schools in Kirkwood to celebrate Bike Week with Kirkwood students. Bike Week is incorporated into physical education classes at local schools and allows kids to get more comfortable on their bicycles. Trailnet staff Taylor March and Cassie Jones spent a week at each school to build confidence and give tips on safe riding. Over 1000 children had the opportunity to get their bike helmets properly fitted and learn some basic skills.
“The purpose of Bike Week is to get more kids riding and feeling confident and competent,” says Taylor, “We focus on helmet safety and physical activity, and getting kids to feel excited about biking.”
Bike Week is funded in part by Great Rivers Greenway through the Gateway Bike Plan. Trailnet partnered with the Kirkwood Police Department and Missouri Department of Transportation. MODOT provides a trailer outfitted with tools, borrow-bikes, and specialized bikes for children with special needs.
Children from kindergarten through fifth grade took part in the program, which has both a classroom and a riding component. In the classroom, students learn how to properly fit a helmet and perform a quick safety check on their bikes. Outside, students begin by riding a cone course where instructors can gauge their riding ability. Students that need more assistance are matched with an instructor, while those that have more practice can help their friends and ride around in a protected area.
This is the fifth year that Trailnet has been to Keysor Elementary School for Bike Week. While most children in kindergarten are still using training wheels, March says that only half of Keysor kindergartners use them. The schools provide bike racks and the encouragement.
“It’s become a part of the culture there,” he adds. “Their brothers and sisters have done it before them. Kids look forward to it and they push each other.”
Not all of the kids have bikes at home or helmets. Bike Week makes bikes available to children who might not otherwise have them and Trailnet gives away helmets. For families that struggle with the cost of purchasing a bike, St. Louis Bicycle Works is a great resource, allowing kids who complete a six-month educational program on safety and bike maintenance to earn a free refurbished bike.
“The biggest thing we hear is that, for most of us, bikes gave us our first sense of freedom,” says Taylor. “By creating a safe environment for kids to ride, through encouragement and fostering, we are equipping kids to make a healthy lifestyle choice for the rest of their lives.”
Taylor says that unlike some organized sports where some people don’t want to participate, all of the kids seems excited about riding their bikes. “There is something intrinsically satisfying about riding a bicycle and it’s true for everyone.”
That excitement, and watching a child ride for the first time without training wheels are the most satisfying part of Bike Week for Taylor. Trailnet will hold its first Bike Week at Froebel Elementary in Dutchtown this month.
Special thanks to Ron Effland of MODOT and Officers Joe and TJ of the Kirkwood Police Department.