A is for air.
B is for brakes.
C is for chain ... or clothing.
“Is there anything that’s missing on this bike if I want to go for a ride at night?” Neal Kaufman asked a half-dozen third-graders huddled around him behind Meridian’s Ponderosa Elementary School on a recent spring afternoon.
“A light! ... A reflector!” a couple of the children yelled.
That’s not just a safer way to ride a bicycle at night — in Idaho, it’s the law.
Many children get bicycles from their parents, along with a steady hand while cruising around the neighborhood. But they don’t always get instruction on the rules of the road, such as which side of the street to ride on, how to conduct oneself on sidewalks, or how to be safe when heading to schools and other destinations.
That’s where the Treasure Valley Safe Routes to School comes in. The federally funded program sends bicycle and pedestrian safety educators into classrooms.
“This is really important to me,” said Ponderosa Principal Kathy Crowley, as two dozen third-graders buzzed around on bicycles or scooters as part of an educational “bike rodeo.” “I believe this is a way for kids to advocate for themselves.”
That might be more important than ever, as the notion of riding a bike or scooter to school, or even walking, has become a quaint idea rather than a daily practice.
In 1969, almost half of children age 5 to 14 in the United States walked or rode bicycles to school, according to Safe Routes data. By 2009, that had dropped to just 13 percent.
The reason for that are numerous, including fear by parents that there is too much traffic for their children to safely travel to school on their own. Other major barriers cited by parents in national surveys: distance, weather and crime danger.
We are giving kids the key to their own independent, individual transportation options by making biking/skating/scooting/walking a safe and normal form of transportation.
Lisa Brady, coordinator, Safe Routes to School in Boise
Lisa Brady is the director of the Treasure Valley Safe Routes to School program, and she is one of four safety educators with the program. She said the local group — which is based at the Treasure Valley YMCA —receives $140,000 annually in federal funds, and it must reapply for funding every year. Some weeks the instructors are in a different school every day in Boise, Meridian, Star, Caldwell and Nampa.
Preventing injuries and saving lives are big objectives among many for Safe Routes. Other goals include building lifelong habits of cycling and walking that are healthy and better for the environment.
“It’s about equity, too,” Brady said, noting that not everyone can afford a car. “You can ride a bike anywhere ... You can ride across the country and across the world.”
HOW THE RODEO WORKS
Crowley, who was previously on the Treasure Valley Safe Routes’ stakeholders committee, said she’s been bringing safety educators to Ponderosa for five years.
All of the 90 students who participated in the bike rodeo this day had on helmets. Many received free helmets and proper fittings as part of the rodeo.
The students were split up into small groups and sent to one of six stations, where they got practice starting, stopping and balancing; learned hand signals; refined their bike handling skills; got bicycle maintenance tips; and learned some of the rules of the road and sidewalk. Also, they were advised to be extra careful near driveways, a high-risk area for collisions.
Hey, kids: When crossing streets or intersections, always look left, right, left
Stefanie Coleman, whose son is a third-grader, was among about 16 volunteers helping out at the bike rodeo. She was providing guidance to children who were carefully steering around a figure-8 course. One of the kids stopped unexpectedly, causing a backup for those coming behind her.
“This is how pileups happen on the freeways, you guys,” Coleman said, urging them to pay attention. “You have to watch the people in front of you ... Do you understand why there’s no texting and driving?”
Crowley said she wasn’t aware of any students injured in bicycle or pedestrian crashes near the school in recent years.
The number of minors injured or killed annually in Ada County in such crashes has trended down over the past two decades, hitting a low in 2014. However, two children died in 2014 — the highest number of child deaths during that period.
In April that year, Olivia Schnacker died from injuries she suffered when a car struck her as she rode her bicycle in a crosswalk on Ustick Road in Boise. Investigators found insufficient evidence to charge the driver.
In December, Brenden Rogers, 13, died after he was struck by a truck as he rode or was bending down to pick up his skateboard outside a Downtown Boise parking garage.
2 Number of children killed in bicycle or pedestrian crashes in Ada County in 2014
27 Number of children injured in Ada in 2014
70 Number of children injured in 1999
The crash data shows at least 10 of the 20 young bicyclists involved in crashes in 2014 were wearing helmets, a significant increase over previous years. For example, just four out of 54 involved in crashes in 2009 were wearing helmets.
Crowley said a fellow staff member told her the message about wearing helmets was silly. Then the staff member’s 19-year-old son was in a crash while riding his bike to work at night.
“His helmet saved his life,” Crowley said.
Bike safety sessions for summer
Tuesday: 2-3 p.m., Star Branch Library, 10706 W. State St., Star. Kick off summer reading with a bike rodeo. Learn about safety and test skills.
Saturday: 10-11:30 a.m. Bicycle Skills and Safety Hour at Boise Bicycle Project. Free bikes and helmets for those 4 to 11, but kids must complete one-hour skills and safety training. Kids with bikes also welcome. Register by Wednesday. Call 208-429-6520 for this or other BBP trainings below.
Saturday, June 25: Noon-2 p.m. Meridian Speedway, 335 S. Main St., Meridian. Second annual Dairy Days Bike Rodeo. Bike safety checks and tips, helmet fittings, skills course, bike decorating and races, games and prizes.
Saturday, July 9: 10-11:30 a.m. Bicycle Skills and Safety Hour at Boise Bicycle Project. Registration is June 29-July 6.
Thursday, July 14: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Hidden Springs Library Kids Bike Rodeo, 5868 W. Hidden Springs Drive. Bring your bike (or scooter) and helmet to the library and learn safety skills from Treasure Valley Safe Routes to School.
Tuesday, Aug. 2: 2-3 p.m. Lake Hazel Library Kids Bike Rodeo with Treasure Valley Safe Routes to School, 10489 Lake Hazel Road, Boise.
Thursday, Aug. 4: 2-3 p.m. Victory Library hosts Kids Bike Rodeo with Treasure Valley Safe Routes to School at Five Mile Church of the Nazarene, 2701 S. Five Mile Road, Boise.
Saturday, Aug. 13: 10-11:30 a.m. Bicycle Skills and Safety Hour at Boise Bicycle Project. Registration is Aug. 3-10.
Want to bring Safe Routes to School training to your school? Contact Lisa: email@example.com or call 344-5502, ext. 291.
The MAX: Free kids bike repair
Every third Thursday of the month at the Boise Bicycle Project shop, from 6-8 p.m., 1027 S. Lusk St., Boise.
Thursday, July 14: 5-7 p.m. Boys and Girls Club in Meridian, 911 N. Meridian Road.
Want to schedule a safety/repair day? Contact Adam at Boise Bicycle Project: firstname.lastname@example.org