A Swell Community: The Norte Bike Mas Finale!
October 11 2016, 12:58 pm
by Wes Sovis
Ending the Ride in Style
Every Monday for the past month, I've had the good fortune to ride bikes with five of the coolest fifth graders around. As part of the Bike Mas project through Norte, we were able to get five kids off the couch, on bikes, and rolling through their community. But Bike Mas is a program that is much more than a babysitting service on wheels. The kids got to work on so many new skills, faced challenges and fears, and had an opportunity to build their self-confidence. I know, that sounds ambitious for just pedaling around the neighborhood, but it's true - and we did this all while having fun and eating pie!
What We Learned
The biggest emphasis for our program was safety. We spent time each session talking about the rules of the road - where cyclists should ride on the road, to stop at all stop signs, to signal your turns, to warn pedestrians that you're passing them, etc. For our last session, we let each kid take a turn leading the group. They used everything they had learned over the last few weeks to successfully guide us to our destination, the Fish Weir in downtown Traverse City. It was so cool to see each one yelling, "slowing!" before each stop sign, using hand signals, and guiding the group with a Napoleonic authority.
It was the communication skills that impressed me most by our last ride together. When you're telling a group where to turn, when to stop, and just generally leading the group, it's a lot of responsibility and it takes confidence to lead. Each participant has improved immeasurably in their self-confidence and looked forward to the opportunity to lead the group. Isn't that what we want our kids doing in life? Don't we want them to have the self-belief to make decisions and believe in their ability to lead others? I sure think so.
In addition to the on-bike skills, we also learned some basic bike maintenance; how to check tire pressure, put a chain back on after it comes off, and how to determine proper seat height. This helps them learn how to make easy fixes by themselves so they can keep rolling and not wait for a parent to have to do it for them.
Help Us Get More Kids on Bikes
Wouldn't it be great if more kids had the opportunity to be more active and to build confidence by learning how to ride bikes safely with knowledgeable adults? While this program is at a few elementary schools in Traverse City right now, we'd love to have more schools involved in town. We need more volunteers to make it happen. If you're interested in learning more about Bike Mas or Norte in general, please be sure to send Ty Schmidt, the Executive Director, an email. They have so many cool events going on all year long, so it's easy to join in and see just how incredible this group is for kids and adults alike
A huge thank you to Ty for letting me be part of Bike Mas this fall, and to Laura Otwell for being my-co-captain each week and making sure we got back to the school after our ride with the right number of kids.
Also, a big thank you to the kids at Eastern who rode with me each week. You guys improved so much over the last month, and I had a blast hanging it out with you.
Until next time, get on a bike and Bike Mas!
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