The Bike Más Project is Norte!’s experienced-based after school program for elementary aged students which aims to develop the next generation of active, healthy, engaged young leaders in Traverse City through bike repair, education, safety and adventure.
Thanks to a National Center for Safe Routes to School and Schwinn’s Helmets on Heads grant, The Bike Más Project was launched at Traverse Heights Elementary this past spring and was a total success.
The goal was to build the bike and community culture by engaging students in safe, healthy and active life choices. The program ran 6 weeks and had a different focus at each session followed by a fun bike ride around town.
Each session had an educational and safety component that seamlessly flowed into a fun active ride. Expectations for behavior and attitude were framed in terms of Traverse Heights Roadrunners (the school mascot) being responsible, respectful, representatives, and what that means in terms of being a part of Norte!. These qualities were talked about at each session so students could really own them.
Prior to riding we met in the library to talk about various aspects of riding and review what had been learned the week before. For example, one week the focus was trail riding and etiquette. Everyone was given a bell and mounted it on their bike. We discussed staying to the right and alerting slower trail users when passing, moving to the left and giving a friendly ding or “hello”.
The need to ride safe was also stressed at each session, and framed in terms of being responsible for yourself and all those around you. We learned about proper helmet fit and use, and took the pledge to wear our helmets every time we ride.
Students learned about the importance of safe riding practices as the first line of defense against crashes. We talked about where to be positioned on the road, how to signal and the importance of communicating to those around you. We practiced riding a straight line and being predictable as an important way to avoid crashes.
We learned that bikes have rights and responsibilities as vehicles on the road, and have to follow the same laws as cars. Some of the activities to practice these concepts and skills were rides to nearby parks. One week our destination was to Jupiter Park in the neighborhood where we played tag and had a snack.
The next week we had a trials bike rider, Jonathan Pool, with 2 Wheel Technique, volunteer his time and demonstrate straight line riding skills. Then students had a chance to do it themselves by riding on boards and a teeter-totter. He inspired students with talk about the importance of patience and dedicated practice.
Another week we took a 6-mile ride along the Boardman Lake Trail to Medalie Park, stopping to view turtles and birds and have a snack. This ride is adjacent to the school neighborhood, but for most of the kids, it was their first time on the trail and to the park.
The next week we rode to Hull Park and met a mechanic who was set up with a stand, tools and wheels. The kids got their hands dirty as they dove into learning to take a tire off and put it on a wheel, and inflate it to the proper pressure. They were able to see the mechanic in action, ask questions, and try their hand at adjusting brakes.
Another important aspect of the program was the opportunity to explore things right in their neighborhood or very close by, and for students to recognize their ability to be independent, as they grow older. Students rode to the public Library, also near the school, and were able to register for library cards.
The last activity was an end of the season fiesta. We rode the TART Trail to Clinch Park on the bay for a pizza party and awards were presented. Each student was recognized for his or her unique contribution and strengths. Community partners who donated bikes and helmets joined us at the celebration, where we were able to recognize them.
We made many connections in and out of the school community. Firing up the staff is priceless as we look to continue programming at Traverse Heights and other area schools. We had huge numbers participate in the Norte! sponsored Traverse City Bikes to School Day on May 6th. Students were excited to bike with their Principal, and other parents and staff! When arriving at school, students were greeted with high fives, smiles and healthy snacks to start their day. There wasn’t enough room in the bike rack that day with about 40 bikes parked in front of the school.
This effort also led to a connection with a woman whose grandchild joined The Bike Más Project, and she signed on to be the Friday conductor of the Traverse Heights Golden Arrow Bike Train, another Norte! coordinated program.
Successes also included a third grader who had mostly just ridden her bike back and forth a few blocks to school. She rode 6 miles and was extremely proud of her accomplishment. She, as all of the students, was empowered with skills and knowledge and the ability to share what they learned, and that is a huge success.
Each student received a newly conditioned quality bike offered by local bike shop owner, Bob and Kris McLain of McLain Cycle. Bob is a Traverse Heights alumnus and was front and center when it came to helping out.
Another local bike shop, Brick Wheels, wrote a Bell Helmet grant and made helmets available to all students that needed one.
TART Trails donated an entry to their Tour de TART event to each graduate as way a to encourage them to keep riding once the program was over.
Oryana Natural Food Market donated a gift card to allow Norte! to purchase healthy and delicious snacks for our end of program fiesta. Yum!
One of Norte!’s real successes is creating a program that was embraced beyond the students engaged this spring, and that will continue on in the future.
Let’s do it again in the fall.
Bike Happy. Bike Más. Bike TC.