Teaching cycling skills to school children, improving cycling infrastructure for all
It’s back to school, and for kids in the Edmonds School District — home to the second-largest public school bicycle instruction program in Washington state — that means it’s time to do biking.
About 5,000 elementary and middle school students will participate in the Let’s Go Edmonds bike program in the 2022-23 school year. Only Seattle, which has more than 20,000 school children participating in its Let’s Go program, offers a larger school-based bicycle education program.
A collaboration between Cascade Bicycle Club and the Edmonds School District, with funding from Verdant Health and the Hazel Miller Foundation, Let’s Go Edmonds is incredibly popular with students, says Jenni McCloughan, who oversees health and physical education for the Edmonds School District.
“Kids are always excited for Let’s Go,” McCloughan says. “I have a brand new PE teacher, and he said the first thing the kids asked him was, ‘When are we going cycling?'”
“The kids really enjoy it and they learn so much,” adds McCloughan. “Not just on how to ride a bike, but also on how to ride safely on the road.”
On October 8, parents and community members can learn more about Let’s Go Edmonds at the last Edmonds Museum Summer Market of the season. Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group, known as EBAG, will have a stand at the street fair with children’s bikes on display, as well as giveaways and information for parents.
“We want to let parents and the community know about the excellent bike education program at Edmonds,” says EBAG’s Peter Hallson. “A lot of people in the community aren’t familiar with Let’s Go, and we want parents to be aware of the great bike education their kids are getting.”
Cascade Bicycle Club supplies and maintains all 93 bicycles, as well as helmets and instructional materials, for Let’s Go Edmonds, which is taught by physical education teachers in all 21 elementary schools and four middle schools in the school district.
Cascade Bicycle Club provides and maintains bicycles for the school district program.
On September 13, Cascade’s Let’s Go program manager, AJ Benaltabe, and program coordinator, Shannon Mangan, hosted a training session in Edmonds for district middle school physical education teachers.
During the training, Benaltabe and Mangan demonstrated the basics of helmet and bike fit, as well as braking and shifting best practices. Then, the PE teachers did some practical lessons in preparation for the school year.
McCloughan praised Cascade for their longstanding support of Let’s Go Edmonds, and she praised Benaltabe. “AJ is a former teacher so he understands what teachers need and how crazy their schedules are. He does an incredible job and we are delighted with this partnership.
The next challenge is to make local streets safer so students can use their new bike skills in the community.
The town of Edmonds, for example, has a growing network of bike paths and bike paths, and the paved intercity trail is a short distance from downtown.
But like many communities, Edmonds has gaps in its cycling infrastructure network. This is where the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group pushes for change. The group is working to build community support for more investment in cycling infrastructure, and the organization is looking for more volunteers.
Hallson, a retiree and Cascade Ride leader, still rides 4,000 miles a year at age 87. EBAG co-chair Margaret Elwood rides an e-bike after developing multiple sclerosis and is a proponent of e-bikes. Read her story, “Grandma Rides an E-Bike,” at My Edmonds news.
Edmonds City Council member Will Chen, who grew up using bicycles as a primary mode of transportation in China, says community support is crucial to improving the city’s cycling infrastructure.
This year, Chen says, Edmonds will add a new northbound bike lane (to complement the existing southbound bike lane) along 76th Avenue between 196th and Olympic View Drive.
One of the highest priority cycling infrastructure projects, according to Chen and Elwood, is a safer bike crossing of SR 104, which cuts off the intercity trail and forces cyclists through a sketchy intersection. Elwood describes the difficulty of pedaling through this intersection in his My Edmonds news story:
“The intercity trail puts cyclists in a bike lane on 76th up a steep hill. Then just before the intersection with the SR 104, the cycle path disappears! she writes.
On my way home to Seattle from Edmonds after interviewing Hallson and Elwood, I cycled through this intersection and can confirm that it stinks.
Cyclists crossing a red light at this intersection while traveling south on the intercity trail must either use the sidewalk to exit the right-turn lane or block right-turning traffic while waiting for the light green. When the light turns green, cyclists should quickly resume pedaling uphill from a complete stop while cars wait behind.
This poorly designed intersection is the type of gap in cycling infrastructure that Cascade and bike advocates hope to fill in years to come with funding from the Move Ahead Washington transportation program.
Looking for a safe place to ride with kids? Elwood recommends the mile or so of the Intercity Trail that runs along the west side of Ballinger Lake, as well as the wide Lakeview Trail that leads to the Mountlake Terrace Community Senior Center near Ballinger Park.
“Edmonds cycling infrastructure is improving, but we need more,” says Elwood.
The 5,000 kids who receive Let’s Go bike education lessons each year at Edmonds would probably agree.
— By Paul Tolme
Paul Tolmé is responsible for content strategy and media relations for the Cascade Bicycle Club.