DC Public Schools Rolling into Year Two of Biking Program

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Sterling Stone of Gearin’ Up Bicycles shows DCPS teachers how to check and maintain the kids’ bikes.

It’s not every day that you get to indirectly teach more than 4,000 public school students how to ride bikes safely, but last week, WABA’s youth education staff was lucky enough to do it for the second time. Youth & Family Education Coordinator Jeff Wetzel and Programs Director Daniel Hoagland were part of the team that trained and prepared more than 75 DCPS Physical Education teachers last week.

For the DC Public School system, the Biking in the Park program was something of a risk. But Director of Health and Physical Education Miriam Kenyon was unfazed. Here’s the recipe: Take six dozen teachers, every last second grader, 1,000 bright blue bikes, over 100 volunteers, and add wary administrators, warier parents, and the wildly unpredictable state of DC’s street and sidewalk infrastructure. Then shake it all together for a year, and see what happens.

The result? Kids rode bikes. A lot. Some learned how to ride for the first time in their lives. Others learned how to ride in a group, how to ride on sidewalks or streets, and how to look after one another on a bike ride. In short, the program was an overwhelming success. So when WABA was asked to help get the DCPS teachers ready for year two, we jumped at the chance.

We shared our best helmet-fitting and obstacle-course tips, and demonstrated how to arrange and manage a youth group ride. We helped them find the answers to each other’s questions, and we encouraged them to share the things they learned over the course of the first year.

The teachers–some of whom hadn’t been on a bike in decades prior to the program–were eager to get back to work. They told us about kids who said the bike riding lesson was their favorite school experience ever, and about parents who have dug their own bikes out of garages and basements after their kids came home full of enthusiasm for riding.

DC Public Schools’ Biking in the Park program is ongoing during the school year. Every second grader will get a chance to participate in five lessons that build skills and confidence before going on a half-day field trip by bike. Schools throughout the District are looking for volunteers to help ride with the kids all year long. If you’re interested, please contact Elizabeth Pandaya with DCPS.

Meet Jeff, our new Youth & Family Education Coordinator

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Hi! I’m Jeff, your new Youth & Family Education Coordinator.  I’m super excited to be working to educate children, adults, and motorists about safe bicycling to create a healthy, more livable region.  (Sound familiar? It’s part of WABA’s mission statement!) 

I’m looking forward to being an advocate for families here at WABA. From planning parent and child classes about how to ride together safely in the city to providing resources to new parents on riding with their children, I’m eager to help get things rolling.

 I’m already digging into how I can bring quality experiences teaching bike handling and safety skills to youth across the metro area.  I’ve worked with youth as a teacher, mentor, employer, and robotics team coach and thrive on watching young people grow and develop; I’m excited now to be able to do that through bicycles. From learn to ride classes to bike safety rodeos to advocating for themselves, these are important skills for our youth, who will soon be young adults.

Do you have great ideas for youth (particularly if you are youth!) or family biking needs?  You can email me at jeff.wetzel@waba.org

 To see some of the upcoming programming, check out our summer Bike Camp!

Bike Camp 2015: A Hubcap Recap

What do you get when you mix 14 enthusiastic campers, a whole city to explore by bike, bicycles to repair, and two sunny weeks of summer?

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In July, WABA held its first Bike Camp this year for children age 8-12. During the inaugural two-week session campers explored D.C. by bike, repaired and re-built bikes, and made new friends they can go on bike rides with!

We visited museums and iconic Washington D.C. sights. We saw the different types of bicycle infrastructure around the city and learned how to hand-signal, bike as a group, and master skills like looking over our shoulder. We biked down to the Metropolitan Branch Trail and helped the Trail Rangers do trail work. In two weeks we biked over 50 miles!

We partnered with Gearin’ Up Bicycles to provide mechanics education for our campers. Each camper received a bike in non-working condition. Gearin’ Up’s Zack led the campers in sessions covering everything from changing a flat tire, to re-cabling brakes and derailleurs, to adjusting limit screws (and A LOT more)! They embraced the chain grease and became wrench experts. By the end of camp everyone finished their bikes and took a successful test ride!

We thoroughly enjoyed our first year of Bike Camp and are already looking forward to many more summers of WABA Bike Camp in the future!

We would like to extend a big thank you to all of our community partners we visited during Bike Camp and a special shout-out/thank you/you rock to all of our Bike Camp volunteers!

If you would to be put on the interest list for information on future sessions of WABA Bike Camp e-mail education@waba.org.

How do bikes, field trips, and ice cream sound?

Great?

Greeeeaaaaat!

We’re looking for a few super stellar, dynamic, fun-loving volunteers to assist with our action-packed, ice cream studded, adventure seeking BIKE CAMP!

Bike Camp runs from July 13 – 24 on weekdays. We ask that folks who are interested in volunteering commit to riding with us for at least two days, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

We’d especially love for folks who have youth development, teaching, or outdoor education experience to join us.

Still interested?

Sign up to come to Bike Camp Volunteer Orientation on Tuesday, July 7, from 6 – 8 p.m.!

If you have any questions, please email us at education@waba.org.

DC’s newest and safest bicyclists are at Benning Park

In the fall, we started the Benning Park Bike Club — an innovative afterschool program for youth at Benning Park Recreation Center.

This spring, we were happy to bring Bike Club back to Benning Park. Over six weeks, we rode with a group of engaged youth, taught safe bicycling practices and bike fixing strategies, and explored the neighborhood on our own two wheels. We rode over 10 miles, and our adventures culminated with a scavenger hunt and an ice cream party.

Below, meet some of DC’s newest and safest bicyclists.

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Special thanks to Jessie Webb, whose facilitation made this program possible, and to the DC Department of Parks and Recreation.

Want a bike club at your school, recreation center or youth-serving organization? We’d love to be in touch — email us at education@waba.org.

Fund a Traffic Garden for Kids to Learn How to Ride Bikes

Last week, we posted our year-end appeal letter on our blog (WABA members and supporters may have also received the appeal via surface mail in the past few weeks). This week, we’re reposting descriptions of the projects we hope to fund through your donations for 2014; we asked for $30,000 to fund entirely and we have currently raised $19,825 thanks to your generous contributions. Make a tax-deductible donation to WABA right now and make our advocacy, education, and outreach dreams a reality!

Today, read about our proposed traffic garden, which will cost $3,000 to build.

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There are too few places where kids in the D.C. region can learn how to properly ride bikes. Major trails are too crowded with fast-moving users. Surface parking lots are disappearing. WABA’s own classes have been kicked out of certain locations as space becomes scarcer or more difficult to permit.

We want to install a traffic garden, a dedicated space where kids can learn how to ride their bikes. The traffic garden will have a marked streetscape for practicing balancing and pedaling, and kids will be able to learn the rules of the road and trails on simulated surfaces. We teach over 3,000 kids how to ride safely each year as parents are teaching their own children. Why should there be dedicated spaces for every other outdoor activity—fields and courts and playgrounds—but none in which kids can develop bike skills?

After a great deal of searching, we still haven’t found a landowner willing to allow a full traffic graden with plantings, curbs, and other amenities integrated into the best models. However, the National Park Service will allow us to redesign a space in Alexandria as a pilot version. To get that done, we need to design and build the traffic garden ourselves.

Estimated need to build a traffic garden: $3,000 in supplies, plus volunteer support. Donate now!

WABA’s Fall Education Season, in Photos

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The last leaf has fallen on the youth bicycle education tree! We wrapped up our fall in-school bicycle education classes last week at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School.

This calendar year alone,WABA has shared the joys of bicycling with 3,425 students in the District’s public and public charter schools.  We’ll be back after winter break in more schools, to teach more students, and with (hopefully) more bikes!

Want to help us get more bikes so that we can teach more kids? Vote for us in the Do the Kind Thing contest!

If you are the parent of a child in a D.C. public school or public charter school in grades kindergarten through 6th and would like to bring WABA’s Youth Bike Education program to your child’s school, let us know! We will get in touch with the school’s PE teacher about spring classes.

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Janney Elementary

Janney Elementary

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Our adult programming has also finished up for the season. While it’s satisfying to cross off the final fall class on our education chalkboard, there’s certainly no erasing the experiences of 373 adults who attended WABA’s bicycle education classes this year. Some were learning to ride for the first time, while others fine-tuned their skills as long-term commuters. WABA’s Education Department provides confidence and knowledge that D.C, Maryland, and Virginia residents can use to enjoy their trips on two wheels.

See you in the spring!

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Montgomery County

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City cycling in Washington, DC

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Adult Learn to Ride Alexandria 9/8

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