A Swell Community: Week Three with Norte!
October 5 2016, 8:04 am
by Wes Sovis
Norte! kids ham it up on our stop at GT Pie Co. Thanks for hosting us, GT Pie. You guys rock!
Learning New Skills
On week three of the Bike Mas program with the Norte! kids at Eastern Elementary, we took a little time before our ride to work on a skill that is one of the most important that any cyclist can learn. The ability to change lanes on the street is crucial to navigating one's way across the city, but involves looking behind you as you ride. More importantly, cyclists need to look behind them to check for cars and continue riding in a straight line without swerving into opposing traffic or riding into their riding buddy.
To practice this, we took over a portion of Eastern's parking lot. We had the kids ride on a straight, white parking line to practice their balance. After a few runs of staying on the white line, we had the kids try to ride on the white line while looking backward to see how many fingers Laura was holding up. It was challenging, but the kids did absolutely fantastic! Each one could ride in a line and look over their shoulder by the end of the drill. This is a skill we then put to use in the streets.
The other skill we worked on was knowing where to be at a stop sign. We explained to the kids that when they stop at a stop sign, they should be on the far right of the lane when taking a right turn. If they're going straight or taking a left turn, they should assume the lane to make it clear to the cars at the intersection that you'll be going straight, or give a turn signal to show you're going left. We practiced this several times while riding in the Oak Park neighborhoods on our to and from Eastern.
We're Improving Each Week
It was so incredible to see how far the kids have come since our first ride together. They're so much more comfortable riding together in a group, they anticipate each other's movements, and generally ride like a cohesive group. This represents a marked improvement over our first ride on week one, where we had a few kids tipping over for no apparent reason and more than a few slow speed collisions between riders.
Plus, There Was Pie
To celebrate our rapid progress over the last 3 weeks, we decided to head over to GT Pie Co. on Front Street for a little sugar-induced euphoria. We learned how to ride in the bike lane on Front Street and to look out for parked cars as to not get "doored" by an oblivious office peon talking on their cell phone and opening up their door without looking for cyclists.
Personally, I learned two very important lessons. First, kids eat pie really slowly. Surprisingly slowly. Second, once adequately buzzed, it's not uncommon for some of the kids to literally run around in circles while muttering "SUGAR BUZZ, SUGAR BUZZ" under their breaths. Weird, but kind of adorable.
Sadly, next week is the last afternoon of this iteration of the Bike Mas program. The plan is to put together everything we've learned to embark on our most ambitious ride to date. I'm planning a 10(!) mile ride, so the kids were informed to bring a water bottle and a snack. Hopefully, the weather plays along because I'm looking forward to seeing the kids put together everything they've learned for one last ride together. They've made so much progress that I'm sure our last ride will be the best one yet!
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