Three years ago, fourth and fifth graders at Broadway Elementary were given yet another reason for P.E. to be one of their favorite classes of the day. They got to ride bikes.
Now all fourth and fifth graders throughout the Central Valley School District will get the same opportunity, thanks to a recent $6,100 grant from the SpokeFest Association.
Katie Ferris, Broadway Elementary’s P.E. teacher applied for and secured the grant, part of the association’s ongoing efforts to get more members of our community – especially young people – involved in cycling. The grant purchased 30 new bicycles and helmets, with help from The Bike Hub, which also assembled and delivered the bikes to excited students earlier this fall.
“I’d been partnering with Eileen Hyatt of Spokane Bike Alliance and the Central Valley SCOPE office for the past three years in the program at Broadway, so they saw it was a real community effort,” said Ferris.
The money for the grant comes from SpokeFest — the Inland Northwest’s largest cycling awareness event which happens every September.
“While our goal for SpokeFest is to get people riding, our mission is really to provide bicycle education for children and to promote bike riding as a healthy choice,” said Kathy Chase, SpokeFest sponsorship chair.
Broadway students were given the privilege of “taking them for a test drive” before the bikes were transported to Opportunity Elementary, the first school in the 2012-13 rotation through the district.
Each of the 13 elementary schools will have the bikes for about three weeks to complete the curriculum for all fourth and fifth grade students. In the spring of 2013, the bikes are scheduled at Broadway, Liberty Lake, Chester and Progress elementaries.
“The Central Valley health and fitness teachers are very thankful for the SpokeFest grant,” Ferris said. “This will allow us to expand our bike safety instruction to all our 13 elementary schools and enable student riders to bike safe and smart.”
Hyatt, a retired teacher and avid cyclist advocate, suggested the bicycle safety curriculum to Ferris in 2009, who welcomed the fun and practical addition to her class.
Hyatt is also a member of the Spokane Bike Alliance since the 1990s, a former certified instructor with the League of American Bicyclists, and is considered a pioneer in teaching bicycle safety skills in schools throughout Washington state.
In April, she concluded the last of 25 trainings over 14 months, for the state funded Safe Routes to School Bike and Pedestrian Safety Education Program.
She is also a bike mentor to commuters through the Bike Buddy Program, which she established almost a decade ago, to encourage people to bike commute safely.
“Bicycling is a joy, but you want to be safe and you want to be a good citizen,” said Hyatt, in a prior interview.
Hyatt and Ferris jointly taught the curriculum to the Broadway Elementary students for the last three years, while Spokane Valley SCOPE provided free helmets for the kids to take home. Hyatt provided the bikes—which were 20 years old—via the Spokane Bike Alliance.
“We’re really excited that it’s now a permanent part of our program. It’s awesome that SpokeFest does this for our community,” said Ferris. “With so many busy streets around all Central Valley schools, it really makes a huge difference when kids know their hand signals and know how to ride safely. It also makes it more likely that their parents will let them ride their bikes to school, seeing that they know the rules of the road.”
Melanie Rose, public information officer for Central Valley School District, applauds Ferris’ initiative in seeking the grant and Hyatt’s and Ferris’ joint implementation of the program.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to be able to learn to ride bikes safely and be smart when they’re on the street,” said Rose.
The district will transport and store the bikes during the winter or when not in use, and has started a fundraising effort to purchase a covered bike trailer which will cost about $5,000.
“It would be nice to have a cohesive unit which the bikes can be stored in when they’re at the schools and when they’re not in use during winter. It will also cut out a lot of the labor of loading and unloading ,” said Ferris.
Starting in March 2013 Spokefest will be taking the next round of grant applications, which will be available on its web site and Facebook pages. Grant recipients must either be a non-profit or a school, with a proven track record of their program’s success. The association allocates $7,500 each year towards the grant; any money not awarded rolls over into the next year’s fund.
In 2010 the SpokeFest grant provided 30 bicycles, helmets and teacher training to East Valley School District to implement a bicycle curriculum for their 4th-6th grade students. In 2011, Spokane’s East Kiwanis was the grant recipient for the Paint-a- Helmet children’s bicycle helmet program.
“We’ve had great sponsors and support from the community and we would like them to know the purpose of SpokeFest is to provide this education and training,” said Chase. “We’re only five years old and we’ve already given over $16,000 in grants since 2010… we’re pretty proud of that.”
The 2012 SpokeFest event nearly doubled the 1,200 participants that rallied in 2008, the event’s first year. Starting in downtown Spokane, riders set off on one of four bike routes, each one geared towards a slightly different level of ability but all offering some of the most scenic views Spokane has to offer.