Eight elementary schools in Roseburg are teaching bicycle safety as a life skill.
A trailer packed with 36 bikes and over 100 helmets is making the rounds to fourth and fifth grade physical education classrooms, where teachers, a AmeriCorps Safe Routes to School Facilitator Janelle Polcyn and community members are joining forces to teach students how to ride and how to be safe using a bike as a mode of transportation.
For some kids, riding a bike is a skill they learn before they start school, but it stays in the backyard or in the cul-de-sac. The Jump Start curriculum teaches students every step from learning how to ride and the importance of a helmet, to the basics of balance and stopping, to laws for bicyclists and how to ride on the road in the safest way possible.
Kristina Kelso, a physical education teacher at Sunnyslope, is wrapping up her time with the bike fleet. Every day at lunch, she had a dozen or so kids run over to the trailer and ask to use the bikes. Some of those kids don’t have bikes at home and were just starting to nail down the basics and wanted to be ready for a community ride.
“Students are excited to get out and ride the bikes,” Kelso said. “Students are asking if they can get out and ride. Hopefully, we are creating bike riders that can safely share the road and use as a mode of transportation.”
Roseburg Public Schools has the trailer on loan from the Street Trust, a nonprofit thatworks in classrooms, on the streets, in city hall and state legislatures encouraging and advocating for safe and convenient walking, biking, and transit options. It sends curriculum to the Jump Start Program and bike fleet to schools around the state.
As part of their focus on Built Environment Policy and Schools, Blue Zones Project applied for the Jump Start Program Grant on behalf of the school district and also received the AmeriCorps grant for the Safe Routes School Facilitator position in partnership with Douglas Education Service District.
“Bicycle safety is important at the elementary level because students are learning the rules of the road, signals and practicing becoming a better rider,” Kelso said. “Several students were not able to ride a bike or were a bit wobbly riding and now they are a stronger bike rider which increases their safety too.
“Many students, especially in a neighborhood school ride their bike around the neighborhood and are not as aware of their surroundings as they are more so now. Riding with their classmates has been a fun part of PE.”
Larry Filosi is the most consistent volunteer with the bike fleet, taking kids who can’t ride off to the side to help them transition from balance bike to pedal bike and helping keep kids on track with drills to practice stopping and turning.
“In addition to the good it does for the environment by cutting back on fuel consumption and air pollution, the biggest benefit is the exercise kids are getting. Also, the safer it gets for kids to ride on our streets, the more independent kids can become. The freedom they can experience will add a lot to their growing up.”
Children between 10 and 14 years old have the highest rate of bicycle crashes for all age groups, many which could be avoided through education, according to the Street Trust. As children get older, they increase the distance and frequency of travel. The Jump Start program is designed to make sure they have the skills they need to make that travel safe.
“As drivers get used to seeing more bikes on the road, they become more aware of needing to share the road with bicycle riders,” Filosi said. “As more riders ride in groups, they become more visible to drivers. The more visible you are, the safer you will be.”