by Sarah Goh
On Tuesday, March 22, a class of bubbling kindergartners rushed into South Shore PK–8 School’s gym to learn how to ride a bike for the first time. They were taking part in the launch of the All Kids Bike Program, a national movement on a mission to teach every child in kindergarten how to ride a bike in physical education (P.E.) class.
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) chose South Shore PK–8 school as the first in the district to host the pilot program. This program is funded by the Seattle-based nonprofit, Kids Need Bikes, and its founder Thomas Hayes.
At the start of P.E. class, each kindergartner had their own Strider Learn-To-Ride Bike to handle. The school received 24 Strider bikes for all kindergartners to use, along with one example bike for the teacher. A bike comes with a helmet and starts as a balance bike that can later convert into a pedal bike.
“It’s been such an easy set up,” said South Shore P.E. teacher Anna Rabel. “The bike comes in a box, and it takes about seven minutes to put together.”
The kindergartners quietly listened to Rabel as she gave them instructions on how to balance and turn. But as the class turned to activities and games, the young students began laughing and racing each other on the new bikes.
“There’s so much freedom and excitement that a bike brings, and there’s a huge cross section of kids who don’t have access to a bike and don’t know how to ride one,” Hayes said.
South Shore PK–8 is also hosting the Let’s Go bike and pedestrian program that serves students in third through eighth grade. However, teachers have noticed that a fair amount of older kids don’t know how to ride a bike.
“Typically, this program is for our older kids,” said South Shore Principal Justin Hendrickson. “So by starting this in kindergarten … by the time we get to the bigger bikes in third grade, we’re going to have more kids finding a lot more success with bikes.”
Kids Need Bikes board member Sara Rigel said she didn’t get into cycling until she was an adult and realized that learning some skills is harder at an older age.
“We believe fundamentally that every kid needs to learn how to ride a bike at an early age so they have a chance and opportunity to hop on a bike later in life,” Rigel said.
Rabel and her co-teacher, Jen Apfel, were soon setting out cones and tall nets for the kindergartners to navigate around as they learned how to balance and turn.
“It’s a huge confidence booster to ride a bike, especially for kids who don’t have access to bicycles … it’s great that you can now do it here,” Apfel said.
SPS plans to launch this pilot program in all of the district’s schools. SPS P.E. and Health Literacy manager Lori S. Dunn says the first three schools have all been funded, and they are looking for more funding to get this program into all elementary schools.
SPS will focus on the schools with the highest needs to launch future pilot programs.
“I hope that we can continue to work with Seattle Public Schools,” Hayes said. “All things bike-related, especially with kids, is so important for our organization to continue to see in our community.”
Sarah Goh is a Singaporean American journalist from Seattle, Washington, and a current medical student at WSU College of Medicine. At the intersection of community, science, and humanities, she hopes to elevate marginalized voices and explore the overlooked and unexpected through her writing. Find her at SarahSGoh.com or @sarahsgoh.
📸 Featured Image: Kindergartners ride bikes during an event held at South Shore K-8 School on March 22, 2022. (Photo: Alex Garland)
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