On one of our last safe routes to school guided rides four of the 5th grade girls found out they all live within a few blocks of each other. As we were randomly riding through the neighborhood around their school, they started saying ” Hey, my house is over there” and ” My house is that way, can we ride there?” Watching kids have these kind of realizations is one of the most rewarding parts of teaching kids to ride bicycles. It points to how the simple act of teaching a child to ride a bicycle safely on the street can dramatically broaden their view of their place in the world and empower them to explore on their own.
With that our focus those days became finding and riding the safest route we could find from the girl’s houses to school. When I suggested to them that they ride bikes to school together in a Bike Train they began immediately planning on how to talk to their parents and convince them to let them do it and what times to meet up at. We went back to the school and wrote and drew out the routes to show their parents so they could continue to ride after our program ended.
These guided rides were the final step in our Milwaukee Safe Routes to School Program last month when the Bike Fed Staff taught all of the 4th and 5th grade students at Humboldt Park Charter School how to legally and safely ride a bike in their neighborhood. Unfortunately our Bike and Walk to School Day event was thunder-stormed out, but our team of instructors still passed out information to kids who signed a banner as they arrived inside the building saying they support walking and biking to school. We also offered four days of those after-school guided rides for kids who wanted some extra practice riding.
As a thank you for the great work we did The Humboldt Park School PTO donated $100 to the Bike Fed. I chose to flip the donation back to them! I had several of the kids in the after school rides tell me they weren’t allowed to ride their bikes to school since they didn’t have a lock. So I had an idea… I used the donation to purchase 5 Abus U locks, some color coded key chains, and a key lock box to start a lock library at their school.
Now all the kids have to do is bike to school, check out a key from the secretary and lock their bike using the a lock of the same color, which is left outside on the bike rack. The student then returns the key and does the same thing at the end of the day. All it takes is one responsible school staff member and about $100 and your kid’s school can start a lock library too.
Today when I rode by the school on my way the office there were two bikes locked up to the rack using the locks! It is great to see our programs to encourage kids to get active having a lasting impact after we leave a school. If it all goes well over their summer school session, they will continue it into the fall. Hopefully they are calling me to get more locks and a bigger lock box this September!