If you loan a kid a lock…the most rewarding part of my job

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.

Matched pairs of color-coded locks and keys are really all you need to start a lock library.

The sign in sheet to check out locks.

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.

The key box I purchased was installed by the office, but you could keep it in the school library.

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!

If you teach a kid to ride (and loan them a lock), they can ride to school every day.

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4 thoughts on “If you loan a kid a lock…the most rewarding part of my job

  1. Don’t want to be *that* person, but who is responsible/liable if the bicycle is stolen after being locked with one of the borrowed locks?


  2. BB- In this particular case if a kid at this school had their bike stolen while locked with a heavy duty U-lock from the rack in the front of the school building I would replace it with a similar bike from one of our donated bikes. I think that that decision on who is liable if this system were to be replicated elsewhere needs to be determined case by case or some legal jargon added to the sign out sheet stating the policy. I would hate to meet the person that is out there sawzalling off u-locks from little kids bikes at a school. But in general I would assume that the person locking their bike up is responsible for proper locking procedures (which you may note in the picture above I will have to talk with the girls about front wheel locking) and the neither the school nor The Bike Fed in this case would assume liability for a stolen bike.

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