All Routt County kindergartners will learn to ride a bike thanks to new program
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Starting this spring, every Routt County kindergartner will have the opportunity to learn to ride a bike, thanks to a new program called All Kids Bike Learn-to-Ride.
The program includes Strider Learn-To-Ride Bikes, helmets and curriculum. The schools will receive the bikes in the coming weeks and launch the program this spring, and every kindergartener at a Routt County elementary school will have the opportunity to participate.
The program cost $24,000 — with $3,000 raised by the schools, $12,000 from an anonymous donor and $9,000 from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.
“Routt County is the poster child for how this should go,” said Traci Hiatt, donor engagement manager at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation. “The way this community made this happen so fast and the way this community wants to support youth is so inspiring.”
While the program has been in the works for a while, local teachers said giving kindergartners a COVID-19-safe and fun opportunity will be helpful, as kids’ lives have been heavily shaken by the pandemic.
“This is just another way to give more and get more kids to fall in love with biking,” said Erin Early, a physical education teacher at Soda Creek Elementary School. “This is step one to figure out what else we can do to help everyone in the community get out on a bike.”
The bikes were delivered to each school last week, and the schools will receive a specific integrative curriculum, staff training and certification, child-friendly Strider Learn-To-Ride Bikes and helmets.
Will Chapple, a physical education teacher at North Routt Community Charter School, said helping children learn to bike is rewarding for both teachers and students.
“The joy and adventure that every student feels when they take their first pedal on gravel roads is a magnificent moment, and I am honored every time I share that moment with a student,” Chapple said.
Bicycle advocates also said the program is important because biking and outdoor recreation is such an integral part of life in Routt County, though access to outdoor equipment is often limited for lower-income residents, as outdoor gear can be expensive and requires time.
“Inequities start at a young age,” said Laraine Martin, executive director of Routt County Riders. “Not every kid from Routt County has access to a bike, and PE class is a place where all kids can come together and the playing field gets leveled out.”
Hiatt agreed, adding one purpose of the program is to help kids from lower-income families have the same opportunities as their more affluent peers.
“Many kids don’t have the opportunity to have a fancy bike that they can learn to ride when they’re two and three years old,” Hiatt said. “It’s a family-friendly activity that’s easy to do and fun to access, but good bikes do come with a financial barrier.”
Hiatt also said the foundation raised more than needed within 10 minutes of asking for donations, which she called “incredible.”
“It was like the easiest outreach ever to reach out to people,” Hiatt said. “It was a whole community effort, and it was just really cool to see everyone working together to make this a reality.”
Jenn Smith, school relation specialist at Strider Education Foundation, said the program chooses to start with kindergartners so they can learn early on and use the skill throughout their lives.
“Riding bikes is something everyone can use throughout their entire lifetime,” Smith said. “You can learn how to ride a bike, and all of those things are things you’ll take with you forever.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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