May’s Bike to School Day: The Fun & Freedom of a Bicycle

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Why do kids love to ride bicycles? With Bike Month celebrations taking place across the country in May, it’s a great time to take a ride with your favorite kids and find out why.

Perhaps bicycling helps kids find a sense of joy and independence. Regular physical activity, such as bicycling, helps kids stay healthy and get the wiggles out. As families replace car trips, they help reduce congestion and air-polluting emissions. And moods tend to improve when we spend more time outdoors. But kids might simply say it’s fun!

The first National Bike to School Day was celebrated in 2012 and momentum is building for broader participation this coming May 8. Last year, eight Shasta County schools participated in Bike to School Day, including one that had two bike trains with 90 riders. Many schools in Chico, Anderson, Shasta Lake, Burney, Oroville, Redding and other communities are offering bike trains and other Bike Month events to teach bicycle safety and encourage more kids to ride more often.

What is a bike train? Students meet at a central location to bicycle to campus together, or the train may pick up students along a designated route. Parent volunteers or school staff may lead the bike train and provide supervision while students learn safe riding habits and have fun together. Students arrive at school alert, energized and ready to learn.

Under the leadership of teacher Ray Bransky, sixth graders at Citrus Elementary School in Chico are gearing up for Bike Science Week, which includes daily field trips by bike. Destinations include Gateway Science Museum to work with robots, Bidwell Park to study natural habitats, and Chico High School for chemistry.

Citrus Elementary sixth grader Sequoyah Darden indicates that last year’s sixth grade class rode over 100 miles during Science Week, and this year’s class intends to break that record. “In addition to transportation, we use bicycles to build endurance, exercise and fun,” she says. She also explains that Citrus students don’t limit bicycling to the month of May. Bicycles are incorporated into math and language arts lessons, becoming an important part of their classwork throughout the year.

art-0513-bike2One great way for your family to celebrate Bike Month is to join a “Challenge.” Shasta County residents can join the Bike Commute Challenge, taking place May 5 – 18. Participants are entered into a drawing on each day they ride to work or school, or bike to do errands. Family rides to the park, to a friend’s house, or to the farmers market all count. Participants are encouraged to form or join a team at their school or worksite through http://www.healthyshasta.org.

Bike Chico is challenging people to ride bicycles “to work, to school, to shop and to play” for the seventh year in a row, May 6 – 10. Chico school students will be entered into a drawing to win a bicycle each day they ride! For more information about the challenge, visit http://www.bikechico.org.

If your community does not offer a Challenge, consider the National Bike Challenge at http://www.endomondo.com/campaign/nbc2013.

Many communities offer an array of family-friendly events during Bike Month. Chico, Redding and Anderson will have Energizer Stations that offer refreshments to “fuel your ride.” Last year, students at New Tech High School enjoyed biking by the Energizer Station at Kaleidoscope Coffee for some hot cocoa on their way to school. Children who are ready to trade up to a larger bicycle may want to check out the Chico Bike Swap on May 3, held 2 – 5:30 p.m. at 1010 Cleveland Ave, next to Chapman School (info at http://www.buttebicyclecoalition.org/index.php/bikechico1).

Also on May 3, author Joe Kurmaskie will kick off Bike Month in Redding with humorous stories about fatherhood and bicycling in an evening event, Metal Cowboy: Tales of Family, Biking & Adventure. Tickets are $5 (includes Bike Fair event), available through the Cascade Theater box office. Does your family want to ride with the Metal Cowboy? A free Family Fun Ride with the Metal Cowboy takes place on Saturday, May 4; meet at the Sundial Bridge at 9 a.m. For more information visit http://www.healthyshasta.org/news/metal-cowboy.

“Riding places with my kids gives me an opportunity to teach valuable street-smart cycling skills. And we create opportunities to explore new exciting places we otherwise could not easily access if it weren’t for the bicycle,” says Chris Gaido, who rides bicycles regularly with his kindergartner and third grader.

Ready to take your favorite kids bicycling or start a bike train at your school? Sequoyah Darden and her fellow students at Citrus Elementary have some tips: Teach everyone bike rules and bike safety, and do a few practice rides to make sure everyone has a sense of responsibility and accountability to themselves as well as the entire group. Have fun! 

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Resources

May Bike Month Resources National Bike to School Day (May 8):
http://www.walkbiketoschool.org.

Local Bike Challenges and events:

  • Chico: http://www.bikechico.org
  • Shasta County: http://www.healthyshasta.org/ bikechallenge. ABC of Getting Prepared The League of American Bicyclists encourages people to complete the ABC’s before heading out on a ride, to always wear a helmet, and to follow the rules of road and ride on the right side of the street.

Make the ABC’s a family habit:

  • A = Air. Check your tire pressure and condition.
  • B = Brakes. Make sure they work and that brake pads are not worn away.
  • C = Chain. Make sure it is lubricated and not rusty or broken.

Choosing Bicycle Routes with Children The National Center for Safe Routes to School offers the following tips for choosing routes to ride with children:

• Work with your child to choose safe routes. These conversations help them learn what to look for and what to avoid.

• Choose streets with minimal traffic and low speeds. Look for routes where you can ride separate from traffic on bicycle lanes or paths.

• Limit the number of street crossings and avoid crossing busy, high-speed intersections.

• Always ride on the right side of the road, in the same direction as traffic.

Creating a Safe & Fun Bike Train

  • Map It: Map a route on quiet streets, through the safest intersections, and set a time and location to begin.
  • Set Guidelines: Provide bicycle safety instructions; set a maximum ratio of students to adults (such as 4:1); set a minimum age (perhaps age 10 unless a parent is riding with them); have an adult in the lead and another as a sweep.
  • Enforce Rules: Ride single file on the right side of the street, wear helmets, use hand signals, obey stop signs and signals.
  • Be Prepared: Have supplies to fix flat tires and make simple repairs.

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Amy Pendergast
About Amy Pendergast

Amy Pendergast, MPH, CHES works for Healthy Shasta in Redding.

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