Bike for Life 2012 has started and it’s going very well, in part because of lessons learned from 2011. Here’s a run-down of 10 changes and tips for this year.
1. Three people are better than two: This year, I am fortunate to have two really great volunteers riding with me. This make a huge difference. With so many helmets to fit, tires to pump, and handle bars to adjust, having a third person really helps.
2. Don’t let the kids see, touch or smell the bikes/helmets until your ready to ride: Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but not really. This year, we start bike club with a team meeting before letting the kids see or touch the bikes and gear. Why? Because it’s impossible to get a child to listen when he or she’s got a helmet on their head or hands on a bike. Best not to fight it.
3. Teach hand signals and road safety on the bike path or next to road where you will start your ride: Hand signals and other rules of the road make more sense when taught in context with bike path or road. Plus, you can line them up and reinforce things like leaving a lot of space between bikes. So, now we leave in two stages. We do our helmet and bike fitting at the Center and then we walk a short distance with our bikes to the path to line up.
4. Avoid water bottles if you can on the first day: Kids love water bottles, but when there’s so much to do on the first day, they can become one more thing to deal with. Thankfully, the weather wasn’t hot and the ride was short. They all get their water bottles on day two. They needed them.
5. Have a behavior contract: I can’t say enough about behavior contracts. When kids and parents know what to expect, everyone rises to the occasion. If you want to see my behavior contract, please let me know and I’ll send it to you.
6. Have a destination for each trip: Kids love to bike, but they also like to play. Having a destination is part of the fun and makes them feel accomplished. On our first day, we rode to a nearby park. It wasn’t far, but the kids thought it was great. Next week, we’ll bike to the Machinery Row Bike Shop. They’re gonna love it.
7. Go over the rules, even briefly, on every trip: Repetition is 99 percent of learning. If you hear something enough, eventually it will stick. The top three rules to repeat are 1) Keep a safe distance from the bike in front of you; 2) Use verbal cues to alert others; and 3) Focus. This year, “focus” is a key part of our program. Remember kids, we do not hold conversations while riding single file on the bike path. And, we keep two hands on the handle bars.
8. Act like a team: This year, I’m reinforcing the team aspect of biking. Each session, we start with a short team building exercise. Sticking together as a team helps kids see the impact of their actions even when they are riding as an individual.
9. No Passing Allowed: I tell the kids not to pass because it puts the kibosh on competitive and unsafe behavior like racing. There are always one or two kids that fall into this catagory. I tell them, “You can race when you’re not at Goodman.” They soon learn that passing simply isn’t necessary because everyone rides at a different pace.
10. Um, I don’t really have a 10, I just like having a round number.
So, tell me about your adventures with kids and biking. What works for you? What doesn’t?