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Washington Voices

Community School helps students with bikes

Annabelle Richards, center, Robert Richards, far right, and Gabriel Frye, second from left, attend a mobile bike clinic held last month.
Annabelle Richards, center, Robert Richards, far right, and Gabriel Frye, second from left, attend a mobile bike clinic held last month.

Riding her new purple bike, Holmes Elementary fifth-grader Bryanna Coopersmith patiently waited her turn last month during Community School’s Bike Closet mobile bike clinic at the school.

Bryanna and nine of her classmates had their bikes tuned up as part of a three-day, three-school event.

“I want to know how to fix it myself,” Coopersmith said about the bike she got for her 12th birthday. “My brakes squeak and I want to learn how to fix that, too.”

Volunteers from the Community School, a project-based high school in north Spokane, performed minor maintenance on the bikes, such as testing brakes, filling and repairing tires, and providing a general safety inspection. The volunteers also taught interested students how to do the maintenance themselves.

The high school students who volunteered for the program received hands-on experience at the Bike Closet before the events.

During the three-day event, volunteers serviced 45 bikes: 22 at Garfield Elementary, 13 from Audubon Elementary and 10 at Holmes. Helmets were also given away during the week.

“It’s an awesome program,” said Holmes Principal Steve Barnes. “It’s kids teaching kids how to take care of their bike. They’re learning how to change tires, tighten and adjust brakes and make sure the chain is tight.”

Ivan Smith, Community School site technology support specialist, developed the mobile bike clinic to help low-income students learn to take care of their bikes as part of a National Center for Safe Routes to School grant application. The school received a $1,000 grant last fall, one of 25 minigrants awarded nationally last year.

“The idea is to bring free bike support to students that wouldn’t normally get out and pay for it,” Smith said of the program that provides mentoring opportunities between high school and elementary students. “I think it’s so common – bikes sitting in the garage not being used because it’s broken. More often than not, it’s something that can be fixed easily.”

The grant money paid for bike clinics at the three schools, chosen because each is close to the Community School. The funding covered the purchase of bike stands, a professional tool kit, bike pump, helmets, tubes and books to educate the high school students on bike maintenance.

Smith said the Community School is partnering with the local nonprofit Pedals2People to provide clinics at Grant Elementary on Friday, and Cooper Elementary on May 18.

Pedals2People volunteer coordinator Laurel Sylvan said the organization will provide mobile bike service and additional volunteers. The expertise Pedals2People volunteers bring can further mentor the Community School teens to develop their skills, she said.

At the two events, Smith hopes to provide bike safety education workshops while kids are waiting for their bikes to be serviced.

Both Smith and Sylvan hope to continue the partnership and provide more clinics next year.

“I’m excited to see more kids on bikes,” Sylvan said.

Smith’s involvement in the mobile bike clinics stemmed from his creation of the Community School’s Bike Closet in 2010. Smith turned a 10-foot-by-20-foot storage room at the school into a bike shop as a way to encourage cycling.

“The idea was to get donated bikes to fix up and give out to students who don’t have them,” Smith said about the school’s bike shop. “Plus, it’s a place where students can fix up their own bikes.”