Kids on Bikes

Rolling Forward On Two Wheels

Think back on your childhood. Perhaps you learned to ride a bike in your driveway, or in the street in front of your home. Maybe you pedaled a bike to school, or the park, or a friend’s place. Maybe you and a sibling traded off circling a nearby parking lot on weekends. What you probably didn’t do was ride that bike around town based on safe-cycling maps you developed in a school geography class.

Some students at Harrison District 2’s Atlas Preparatory School are doing just this through a collaboration with Kids on Bikes.

The Colorado Springs Health Foundation funding partner is all about creating community through cycling — and as Executive Director Daniel Byrd says, it’s all about getting our younger generations educated and involved as early as possible.

“The bicycle can be utilized throughout adulthood in a multitude of different ways for health, not just physical health, but mental health, transportation, environmentally friendly, whatever angle you want to come at the bike as an adult,” he says. “We need to start and invest in kids early on. We have to do early intervention when it comes to establishing healthy habits, and an understanding of the bike as not just a fun toy for kids, but the bike can truly be empowering throughout life.”

A bike is a simple tool that can go a long way and have a major impact throughout the entirety of an individual’s life, he adds. All of this has been the impetus for Kids on Bikes to be engaged and involved with many different parts of the local community. “We can go as far and as creatively as anybody’s willing to go for the most part because of the way we want to empower others to help us fulfill our mission.”

One area they’ve focused on is schools. By training interested teachers, counselors and staff through a Bike Ambassador project, Kids on Bikes equips schools to integrate bicycling wherever it makes the most sense. Some have developed after-school programming. Others have tailored Kids on Bikes’ successful Earn-a-Bike program. Some, like that Atlas Prep teacher, have pulled bikes right into the classroom.

“We leave it up to them to be creative,” says Byrd. “We’ve got two schools where the PE teacher has been working to integrate bicycling into their PE curriculum to still meet state standards of physical activity but to utilize the bike.”

Kids on Bikes is also working with local community centers to remove barriers to bike access for youth. They’ve set up Bike Libraries at Hillside, Meadows Park, and Deerfield centers, all of which are stocked with refurbished used bikes, tools, parts and an outdoor repair station. These libraries offer kids as young as 3 and 4 to earn bikes of their own, learn bike mechanics and participate in group rides.

“I think people are really starting to understand the bicycle in a different way and have started to see where we have become more dependent on cars, we’ve become less healthy, more disconnected as a society. I think people are really starting to pick up on a lot of those side effects and symptoms of being very dependent on the car, being attached to iPods and iPhones and computers. We’re realizing that we have to be intentional not to let it go too far because the impact is too great if we don’t get kids outside. It can have long-term lifelong impacts on how they become healthy adults,” Byrd says, adding, “They are the owner of their own health.”