Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bike Lessons at Fairfax County Schools in 2017

Fairfax County Public Schools recently started offering bicycle safety classes to elementary and middle school students. Sally Smallwood, Safe Routes to School Coordinator for FCPS, recently posted the schedule for bike safety classes in 2017 in the Winter 2016-2017 SRTS Newsletter:
Looking Forward to Student Bike Lessons at the following schools in 2017:

January: Hunters Woods ES
February: King’s Glen ES
March: North Springfield ES, Timber Lane ES
April: Canterbury Woods ES, Poe Middle School ES, Poplar Tree ES, Cub Run ES
May: Twain Middle School, Chesterbrook ES, Lane ES
June: Washington Mill ES, Stone Middle School

Now taking Bike Lessons requests for 2017-18 school year. Priority given to schools that have not had the bikes.
Sally has a fleet of bikes that she takes around to schools during the year. Four schools have their own bikes. I asked Sally to describe the bike education program that she manages. I've summarized her response:
We have 29 BMX bikes, 40 Mountain bikes and 7 balance bikes in our inventory to take to schools. We generally teach two basic lessons based on the Bikelogy Curriculum from SHAPE America and Bike Smart Virginia.

The first lesson after going over helmet fitting and ABC bike check is a set of stations where students practice specific skills such as weaving, looking over your shoulder, riding over debris, stopping and starting, signaling and circling. Students usually get this lesson twice in order to get plenty of practice. Some schools only have 30 minute classes and we have to really move fast to cover the content.

The second lesson is called city streets and this simulates an intersection with stop signs as well as an outer highway or beltway. Students practice stopping at stop signs, yielding to traffic, riding in groups and making decisions. We also do this lesson twice.

New riders are pulled to the side and work on balance bikes until they are ready for a pedal bike. Once they have control of the bike and confidence, they rejoin the large group lessons. About 10-20% of each class does not know how to ride when we start.

We are at the elementary schools for 2 weeks and at the middle schools for about a month. The middle school students go through the same protocol but then add learning about shifting the gears, trail riding/group riding, riding for fitness and some bike maintenance. The two week window for grades 4-6 allows us to hopefully see the students at least 4 times. Schools are given a handout called “Bicycle Safety What Every Parent Should Know” to send home with each student.

Currently Rose Hill ES, Hollin Meadows ES, and Greenbriar West ES have bikes (30 each) bought through SRTS funding. Belle View ES bought their own bike through a generous donation from a parent. All these schools are willing to share their bikes with other schools.

Franklin Middle School will be receiving bikes (40) after the new year for their school.

We are trying to build capacity and train teachers to have the bikes at their school so that they can have them without support from FCPS SRTS. Most teachers can handle teaching the lessons, it is difficult to manage repairs (fixing a chain or adjusting brakes), new riders and teach the lessons.

At the end of this school year we will have visited 23 schools for lessons in school and have plans for a least two more Saturday or after school rodeos.

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