July 30, 2021

Safe Routes to School bike programs: ‘This is what equity looks like in practice’

Kids learn to ride bikes and the volunteers have fun, too.

Kids learn to ride bikes and the volunteers have fun, too.

Sarah Mazze: [00:00:00] Hi there. This is Sarah Mazze.  I’m the Safe Routes to School coordinator for Eugene School District 4J.  

Sarah spoke at the MPC meeting July 1.

Sarah Mazze: [00:00:09] With the additional funding for Safe Routes to School assistance, we were really able to ramp up our programming, our encouragement programming and afterschool programming, like bike rodeos. And what we’ve found is that we were, especially at the low-income schools, teaching so many kids at all elementary school ages to ride bikes. And that’s also what’s happening at community events like the Safety Fair and and Sunday streets and Eugene, City of Eugene Parties in the Park.

It was notable to us though, that at the Title One schools, low-income, higher-needs schools, we were teaching about at each event with 70 or 80 kids, we’d be teaching about seven and eight, nine kids to ride a bike. At higher income schools, we were still teaching two or three kids at each event. And we knew there were so many kids we were missing.

We decided to purchase a fleet of balanced bikes. This is the way we teach kids to ride now. No more training wheels. We teach them to glide to balance basically, and then they it’s easy for them to learn the other skill needed to bike, which is the pedaling piece.  We worked with about 450 students.  Was really incredible to see. It is incredible to see at the start you have lots of kids plodding along bikes, wobbling they’re, they, can’t a few can pedal, a couple can glide, but most of them are walking by the end. They’re all pedaling along around.

And the Assistant Superintendent for 4J saw that at the end, at one of our higher needs schools, and she wrote me after: “This is what equity looks like in practice, providing access to students to learn a critical life skill.”

The benefits of this program, along with just the supreme awesomeness of learning to ride a bike and giving those kids the opportunity to pedal for the rest of their lives, there’s also the fun we had. This little girl asks. Can we ride bikes every day?  We brought the bikes to recess at a few schools  and the kids just loved it. There was so much joy in a time when it’s been kind of scary. Um there were some students who came to us with sensory or other issues. We were warned that would be really challenging or that whole classes were really tough. And a lot of that just didn’t surface on the bike.

We had one girl come into the gym with headphones on because PE was so loud and overwhelming for her. And pretty soon, we ended up moving outside because the weather was good, but she would just be in a state of bliss, just biking around in circles. So happy and calm versus obviously PE was a really stressful time for her before. 

I don’t know if any of you are familiar with mindset. It’s a idea that there’s fixed and growth mindset. And a lot of schools use this growth mindset. Fixed mindset, the idea is that you were just born to be a great biker or whatever it is. Growth mindset is, if you practice and put in your hours, you’ll figure it out and you can become what a great cyclist or whatever it is. And so we’ve made big stickers that said, ‘I peddled, I glided, I persisted. I’m bigger than my fears.’  So their teacher afterwards could build on what they learned and their successes, because it’s really such a quick, relatively quick learning process versus learning to read, or do you know, some type of math could be hard. So we’re hoping that the teachers can look and say, ‘See, oh, you persisted and you glided today. Hey, you’re going to get those letter sounds too. If you keep persisting, just like you did on the bike, you’re going to get that.’

John Q: [00:03:38] You can learn more at https://OregonSafeRoutes.org.

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