SMPA wanted to start a Bicycle Club for many years. It would provide a fun activity students could do outdoors, encourage them to be more active and teach them important skills such as bicycle safety, maintenance and how to ride through cities and in a group. In order to do that, SMPA would need enough bicycles and helmets to meet the needs of students of varying sizes and abilities and enough volunteers to be able to launch the Club.
Through multiple drives we were able to secure enough bicycles and thanks to a partnership with the New Haven Coalition for Active Transportation (NCAT), all the other elements to get the club going – – tune ups and repairs for the donated bicycles (by The Devils Gear Bicycle Shop), helmets, a bicycling curriculum, and training for SMPA staff and Bicycle Club volunteers.
Leta Highsmith was the first volunteer from NCAT to help run the Bike Club. Leta, a life-long bicyclist, wanted to share her passion for the sport and inspire young people to ride as well. Through NCAT, she became a League Certified Instructor (LCI). Her expertise and hands-on volunteer support twice each week helped to get the Bicycle Club off to a solid start.
It was hard to contain the exuberance of our middle school students who were very eager to ride. Before they could tackle group rides, they first had to master several skills and safety elements and learn how to be responsible bicyclists on the road.
Students with experience riding a bicycle practiced drills in the parking lot while the students who had never ridden a bicycle before learned the basics of how to ride. Through the Bicycle Club, students gain much more than just learning how to ride a bicycle. They also build their self-confidence and are empowered to navigate the world in an entirely new way.
As the students were riding around in a circle getting used to their bicycles, Gianna, Class of 2034, exclaimed, “It’s so fun to feel the wind in my hair!”
It took two sessions for Alex, Class of 2033, and Arturo, Class of 2033, to learn how to balance on their bicycles, how to get started with a “power start” and how to bring their bikes to a stop using their brakes, but then they were off and riding!
“I can’t believe I finally learned to ride a bike today!” Alex proudly told anyone he ran across for the rest of the day. “Bike Club is great!”