Learning to ride a bike

Learning to ride a bike

My son is a bike rider, but I never learned how to ride a bicycle. When I was a kid, I didn’t leave the driveway on my bike, and my parents never even took off the training wheels. My 7-year old son’s biking experience is vastly different: within two weeks, we took the training wheels off his bike, he practiced riding, and he proceeded to bike confidently around the basketball court.

Hawaii is working hard to make our cities more bikeable, with a Bike Plan Hawaii Master Plan. We are adding bike lanes, installing sidewalk bike racks, equipping city buses with bike racks, designing “Safe Routes to School,” and encouraging “Bike to School/Work” days. Companies are starting up bike-sharing businesses.

Hawaii is also educating bike riders. We teach bikers and drivers about sharing the road – there’s a helpful “Sharing the Road: A Guide to Safe Bicycling in Hawaii” brochure. The Hawaii Bicycling League offers cycling workshops about how to balance, the rules of the road, and bike maintenance. We even have BikeEd Hawaii, a bicycle safety program for fourth graders on Oahu, to teach kids about helmet safety, bicycle “safety checks,” and how to bike on the road.

Hawaii has everything in place – safety programs, bike lanes, and bike parking – but not all parents can afford to buy a bicycle or have the time (or know-how) to teach bike riding to their kids.

If we really want to encourage biking as an alternative to cars, maybe we need to teach kids how to ride a bike in school. Here are some ideas for bike-riding education:

* Bike-riding class in elementary school. Schools could offer a class on bike-riding (maybe as part of the PE program) to teach kids how to ride a bicycle. They could ask for donations from the community and work with Parent-Teacher organizations for funding and volunteers.

* After-school bike-riding class. Schools or neighborhood parks could offer an after-school bike-riding class, with bicycles donated to or purchased for the school.

* Bike-riding class in Summer Fun. During the 8-week Summer Fun program, the Department of Parks and Recreation could spend a week at each park, bringing bikes and teaching kids how to ride.

* Summer bike and swim program. Every summer, the American Red Cross offers free swimming lessons at Ala Moana Beach Park. They could partner with a non-profit bike group or expand the program to include bike riding. They could even start a keiki “Aquabike,” a swim/bike combination race.

* Bike-riding pride. After completing a bike-riding class, students could show off their skills with a bike parade around the school or participate in a bike-decorating contest.

Here’s another suggestion: Fitness clubs with exercise bikes could host bike-and-read events, open to the general public, where teens and adults could read while they bike. It’s not exactly learning how to bike, but it would strengthen leg muscles and brain-power!

May 16 is Bike to Work Day on Oahu and May 18 is Bike to the Zoo Day in Honolulu. Do you bike to school or work? How do you think we can encourage biking in our community?

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