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BEA holding Bike Safety classes this fall

By Staff | Sep 27, 2020

BEA physical education teacher Brenda Smith, far left, leads the students on the bike route around the fairgrounds.

Students at Blue Earth Area Schools are getting a good dose of bicycle safety education this fall, thanks to a grant from the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), as well as the Blue Earth Active Living Coalition (ALC).

And, not only are they learning about bike safety, they are getting the opportunity to go out and practice what they are learning.

“We were able to get a whole fleet of bicycles through the SHIP grant,” says BEA physical education teacher Brenda Smith. “There are 20 bicycles and an enclosed trailer to haul them around.”

She says it was retired teacher and bike enthusiast and BE ALC member Dave Kittleson who found the bikes and trailers available for purchase.

“It was a really good deal,” Smith says. “And we will be sharing the bikes and trailer with area schools in Faribault, Martin and Watonwan counties.”

The bikes and trailer arrived this past spring, but then, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and BEA and other schools all went to distance learning.

The bikes remained unused until now.

“This is our trial run with the bikes,” Smith says. “And it is going very well.”

She has four groups of sixth and seventh graders, with 18 kids in each group. That means each student can use one of the new bikes, or they can bring their own from home.

“Originally our plan was to have this class for the fifth graders last spring, but of course, that didn’t happen,” she says. “So now we are having it for sixth and seventh graders this fall, and we will have it for fifth graders this next spring.”

The groups are using curriculum from bikemn and it covers a variety of topics, from starting out, stopping, rules of the road, shifting and of course, the importance of wearing a helmet.

The instructional material is also on video, so even those students who are still doing distance learning can take the class.

“The online kids watch the videos and then practice riding their bikes in their own communities,” Smith says. “And then they submit the results to me.”

Each of the four groups has five days of class over a two week period.

“We have three routes we are doing over the two week period,” Smith explains. “One route is we leave the school, ride out to the fairgrounds and do that loop twice and stop at the Giant for a photo and to learn about the new bike fixing station. Route two is taking the Highway 169 trail and then go out to Steinberg Park and back to school. And the third route is to follow the trail past the fairgrounds and go out to the two rest stops out on Interstate 90.”

Smith says she has been getting some good help.

“We have some volunteer adult riders,” she says. “So we have a leader in front, someone in the middle and then a caboose person at the end. We have had two bikes break down and a couple of emergency stops for things like tip overs or needing to use an inhaler.

“You can tell the kids who do ride a bicycle a lot and those who don’t,” Smith says. “Some don’t even have a bike. Some have said their legs hurt after the bike ride. But I think all of them are having fun and learning a lot too.”

The bikes are all adjustable to fit kids from 4-foot-6 to 6-feet tall. The seats and the handlebars easily go up and down to adjust to each person.

The students have their ABC check before they take off on their bikes. That is Air-Brakes-Chain. Check the air pressure in the tires, make sure the brakes work and that the chain is on correctly and not too loose. And, then you need a helmet.

“The Lions Club donated helmets and purchased even more of them,” Smith says. “We are still raising funds to pay off all the expenses.”

When BEA gets this trial run completed, other schools, including Fairmont, Martin County West and United South Central, are already lining up their times to use the bikes.