CAN-BIKE InstructorA CAN-BIKE Instructor explains the importance of shoulder checks to students during a school bike rodeo.
By Jamie Stuckless
School-based bike rodeos are an opportunity to teach students the basics of riding a bike. Thanks to dedicated staff members and generous community support, the bike rodeo at Viscount Alexander Public School in Ottawa was also an opportunity to outfit students with new bikes, helmets and a love of cycling.
Plans for the bike rodeo started coming together in the spring when the school was awarded a grant from the local Kiwanis Club to purchase new bikes for students. When a seemingly impossible 18 students indicated that they did not have bikes of their own at home, the school got creative and partnered with Cycle Salvation; an Ottawa-based social enterprise that refurbishes bikes otherwise destined for scrap and landfills. The low cost of the recycles bikes allowed the school to purchase bikes for all 18 students. Then Kunstadt Sports stepped in to provide helmets and locks at a generously discounted price.
The staff at Viscount Alexander was so overwhelmed by the kindness of the local groups that they were happy to compliment these efforts by planning a bike rodeo to ensure that all students would also have the opportunity to learn how to be safe and responsible cyclists.
To begin the bike rodeo day, Cycle Salvation made two early morning trips to deliver the refurbished bikes. The school’s small gym filled up quickly as the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre (SHCHC) delivered additional bikes that they borrowed from the University of Ottawa’s Bike Co-op. Parent volunteers and community members also dropped off extra bicycles, scooters and helmets so that all 130 Viscount Alexander students could participate in the bike rodeo even if they were unable to bring their own bike to school. After gathering in the gym to learn about proper helmet fit from the school’s Public Health Nurse, students rotated through a series of interactive stations run by CAN-BIKE and Kunstadt Sports.
Those who helped make the bike rodeo possible were rewarded for their time and efforts as they helped wary first time riders become proud cyclists and bike owners.
“What great results!” said Janet Thomas, a teacher at the school and lead organizer of the event. “The kids are so excited. The parents are thanking us. As I leave the school, I see kids biking in the yard and hear them say that they will bike to school together from now on. My only suggestion is that we expand this terrific program next year.”
Viscount Alexander Public School has been working to make it safer and more enjoyable for students to walk and bike to school since signing up for the School Travel Planning (STP) initiative facilitated by Green Communities Canada.
In an effort to increase active transportation rates amongst its students, the school’s STP Committee has conducted travel surveys and neighborhood walkabouts, supported a volunteer-led Walking School Bus and organized walk-and-bike-to-school days throughout the year. Like the bike rodeo, all of these efforts have been made possible by the community partners and volunteers who come out to the school time and time again in the spirit of building a stronger school and community.
The school would especially like to thank Anna Jasinski at the Kiwanis Club of Bytown, Eric Kunstadt from Kunstadt Sports, Paul Wylie of Cycle Salvation, Karen Bays of Action Sandy Hill, Celia Yow from Ottawa Public Health, Monja De Luca and Gord MacGregor of CAN-BIKE and Chris Osler from the SHCHC who did not hesitate when they were approached to help bring this idea to life. When individuals step up to help members of their community, good things happen.
Jamie Stuckless is the school travel planning facilitator working for Green Communities Canada in Ottawa.