Rick and Julie Howell
Special to The Record
The “Caution Student Cyclists” signs are already in place as we roll into the drop-off lanes at Huband Elementary School at 8:15 a.m.
We’ve been part of the CV Cycling Coalition Education Program for several years and are familiar with the drill. The shiny aluminum trailer, a treasure box of all things cycling, sits at the end of the driveway waiting to be unloaded. For the next 30 minutes, 10 volunteers set the stations for what will be an all-day bike-safe rodeo that introduces and refines road cycling skills for third, fourth and fifth graders. Some volunteers we know already, others we are welcoming for the first time. Two women from the Newcomers Club who recently completed the Urban Cycling Skills course offered through the Cycling Coalition, have joined us today.
The four-way intersection is laid out, complete with stop signs and lane markers. Chalk lines help to simulate what riders will face when they reach a crossroads. At the same time, the straight line riding course is created. This station encourages traffic awareness using shoulder checks and signals while anticipating road obstructions like opening car doors. A third station will take students out on a ride through the neighbourhood practising the skills they are learning today.
The children who arrive without two wheels are escorted to the magic trailer where new bikes hang on hooks waiting to be assigned to would-be riders; a properly fitted helmet is also provided.
By 9 a.m. the students appear, in all sizes and shapes, and that’s just the bikes they are using. They are all immediately vested in lime green and broken into the three groups to facilitate our three stations. The range of ability runs from competent trail riders to non-riders and every shade in between. A child in a motorized wheelchair joins the activities.
At the first session while we check for safety – helmet fit, baggy pants and shoe laces – a young boy quietly asks, “Is this the bike rodeo, now?”
After all the promotion, some still can’t believe the moment has finally arrived. Comments and questions from the children bring the carefully crafted curriculum alive. When talking about distracted drivers, one young girl is quick to explain how her mother was texting while driving to school this morning. The honesty of the children is refreshing.
Twenty minutes per station passes quickly as instructors and helpers work through the list of skills and the activities to teach them. Every group is different. The overconfident bravado of some fifth grade hotshots, keen to display their wheel-popping abilities, stands in sharp contrast to the quiet insecurity of first-time riders. We tailor our language and tone to meet the individual needs of these young cyclists. All feedback is given in good humour, with an abundance of praise.
At lunch, enthusiastic conversations of touring have us imaging our next journey. Chris is back from cycling in Spain, Ed is off to tour the beaches of northern France, Marg to Amsterdam and Gary to Nova Scotia. We share the stories of our adventures on two wheels.
The final session goes quickly and the rain thankfully has held off. When talking to the children about roadside obstacles, “dead deer” is added to the list of glass, nails and potholes. We are further reminded that we are visiting a rural school when a deer crosses our path while on the road ride.
The day comes to an end with groans of disappointment. One boy asks politely, “Are you coming back next week?”
Angela, our leader and organizer extraordinaire, speaks to the children before they return to the confines of the classroom.
“Your bike is your vehicle and it can carry you anywhere you want to go, to the park or another country when you are older. Be safe on the roads and enjoy the ride.”
Following cleanup and debriefing, we cycle home, satisfied that we have contributed a small part to the larger vision of a growing community of safe cyclists.