Bike Club today was super exciting: our first “neighborhood ride”–that is, the first time we take the kids out on the roads, riding for real. Woohoo!!
My co-teacher Josh and I were a little nervous because we haven’t had too much of a chance to bike with these kids yet. The weather for this club so far has conspired to keep us indoors more than we’d like–which is okay, because it means that we’ve spent a lot of time getting kids to take off their wheels, learn how to fix flats, correctly use tools, and the like, but it also means that we’ve had much less riding practice under our belts than we’d normally have by now.
Nevertheless, it seemed like it was time to dive in.
Biking with up to 14 kids on the road at the same time is a tricky business, and is dependent on them being able to stay in a straight line on the right side of the road. It’s also dependent on students being able to communicate up and down the line, pointing out hazards and signaling turns. And finally, it’s heavily dependent on everyone trusting each other and trusting me and Josh–we are all there to keep each other safe, and with that many people in a row, we all have to know that everyone’s making the safe decision at all times.
So with a quick game of caterpillar around the school grounds, me in front and Josh in back, our club proved that they were up to the challenge. Out into the streets we went.
The kiddos did an amazing job. Even though it was our first time out, we were able to make it all the way to Fernhill Park and back, with enough time in the middle to enjoy some adventure biking up and down the park’s hills. Luckily, there are a few low-traffic streets linking the school and the park–including a designated bike boulevard–so we were able to practice intersection navigation with some cars but not so many as to make it overwhelming. With Josh and my coaching, our kiddos were able to make it through stop signs, left and right turns, and unmarked intersections, making their own decisions about how to proceed within the rules of the road.
And the best part? Just as we were getting close to school again, the light sprinkle that had developed turned into a full-on downpour. The kids shrieked and howled and were instantly drenched, but rather than being angry at the weather as I was afraid, they were so psyched. “My helmet visor is keeping the rain out of my eyes!” “Eee! I’m getting soaked!” “This is so awesome!!” “It could rain all it wanted and I’d still be happy we’re biking!” It was the best response to inclement weather that we could have hoped for.
Our ride back in the downpour turned into a badge of honor, the stuff of which memories are made. Today will be the day they not only biked to the park and back, but biked to the park and back in the crazy rain and had fun anyway. And for me and Josh, it’ll be the day that these kiddos took their first steps toward transportational autonomy, to navigating their communities on their own.
Not a bad day:)