(Note: This was originally published on the Community Cycling Center’s blog here.)
Last October, I began volunteering with Community Cycling Center’s Bike Club at Faubion Elementary in Northeast Portland. Twice per week, I’d help teach fourteen 4th and 5th graders all about bike safety, flat fixing, and how to be an every day commuter. It’s a fun, challenging and rewarding way to spend a few afternoons each week.
Right now, we are 2 weeks into the 2011 Spring session with a whole new set of kids. Aaron* has older siblings so he has plenty of experience riding and seems to be familiar with bikes and hand signals but only wants to ride on the sidewalk. Sara* is a little wobbly, and gets frustrated with herself, but has already shown a lot of improvement. Joey* rides fine, but doesn’t know how or when to shift and often looks for his coaster brake out of habit.
That’s where we come in.
Josh, Lara, and I work to give them the skills and experience to ride their bikes with traffic. Along the way they’ll earn a helmet, a lock, a patch kit, a route map, and eventually, the whole bike. My favorite part of Bike Club, besides the sunny days riding our bikes together, is that these kids aren’t given anything––they earn everything. They make a commitment to learn and cooperate, and at the end of Bike Club, they’ll ride away with more than just a bike and a helmet, but with a sense of empowerment and the confidence to ride their bikes beyond their own streets.
My first day back for the Spring session as I was locking my bike in front of the school, I saw Angela*, one of the kids from Fall session, unlocking hers. I asked if she was still riding to and from school. She just smiled and said, “Yep,” and rode off.
There are a thousand and one reasons why I came back to volunteer with Bike Club, but none are as clear or as simple as that.
Be sure to come back in a few weeks for an update on our progress.
*All students’ names have been changed in the interest of privacy.