Hittin’ the Road: Schools teaching biking safety to budding cyclists
The gym at Mountain View Elementary School has been turned into a mini-bike track these last three weeks.
Some 30 bikes — half with training wheels — were purchased with grant money by the school to give students there lessons in bike safety.
Last week, the students were going over basic biking skills, including how to look over a shoulder to check for an approaching car.
In pairs, students practiced an exercise where one student, peddling on the bike, periodically peered over his shoulder at his partner walking behind him. Cyclists called out how many fingers their partners were holding up.
The goal was for the cyclist to get a good, but quick, view of the obstacle behind him while maneuvering around the gym and its other obstacles (fellow classmates on bikes) ahead.
“And you don’t want to stare because what’s going to happen?” teacher Cory Medina called out.
“Crash!” a chorus of third-graders answered.
Joining Mountain View in the bike education program are Pioneer and Monument elementary schools. (The school district is talking about how it can share the bikes with George Elementary School to expand the program there, said Carole Carlton, director of student achievement for the district.) The three schools were able to purchase not only bicycles for their individual schools but also bike racks, storage units, helmets and tire repair kits with grant dollars from the Washington State Department of Transportation. The grant was given to the city of Quincy’s K-7 Pathway, a project of the Safe Routes to School Program.
Most of the DOT dollars were used to build a 3,500-foot walking and biking path that connects 7th Avenue to 13th Avenue Southwest. About $198,200 was spent on the path, which was completed late last summer, said Ariel Belino, city engineer.
Another $21,000 in grant dollars will be used to purchase flashing warning lights at the 7th Avenue entrance to the pathway. The city has purchased the lights and needs to have them installed, Belino said.
The grant also included monies for the educational component. Another $30,450 was spent on the bikes, equipment and educational programming, Belino said. Staff at the schools also were trained in a bike safety program.
This is the first time, in his nine years of teaching at the school, that’s he’s been able to teach a bike safety course, Medina said. Some of the children were very new to bicycling, he said.
“I’ve had third-graders who I don’t think have ever been on a bike,” Medina said.
Medina has been teaching the children such skills as how to safely cross streets. He has emphasized the importance of spotting potential dangers in the road and wearing a helmet. Students even are learning such biking basics as how to stop correctly.
“Your brakes! Your brakes!” Medina called out at one point to a group of energetic kindergartners as they peddled around cones in the gym. “Use your brakes — not your feet!”
Carlton said among the goals of the bike safety program is to prevent traffic-related childhood injuries and to build responsible, healthy behaviors. They want students to be “competent and confident” walking and bicycling in traffic, and they hope to “empower students” who want to walk or bike to school, she said.
At Mountain View, classmates Giselle Carrillo and Melany Alcaraz said they both have bikes at home. The 9-year-olds said they were not only enjoying biking in gym class but also learning something new.
“(I learned) to keep track of where you’re going in case there’s a car coming and you have to look both ways,” Alcaraz said.
“Always wear a helmet so when you fall you won’t hurt your head,” added Carrillo.
— By Jill FitzSimmons, firstname.lastname@example.org