Bike time at James Elem.

By LESLIE COLLINS 
Northeast News
May 22, 2013

“I didn’t think it was going to be as fun as it was. I had a lot of fun in this program,” James Elementary fifth grader Alesha Cheffen said.

Cheffen, along with five other James fifth graders, just completed the Earn-A-Bike program sponsored  and created by BikeWalkKC.

For 14 weeks, BikeWalkKC Education and Outreach Manager Maggie Priesmeyer visited James Elementary once a week for an hour before school to teach students about bike maintenance, bike safety and bike advocacy.

“Despite being a neighborhood school, very few kids ride their bikes here,” she said.

According to the BikeWalkKC website, 50 percent of U.S. children biked or walked to school in 1969; now, it’s less than 15 percent.

“I think that we’re raising a generation of students that just aren’t as active,” said James Elementary Principal Dr. Jo Nemeth. “In this age of technology we have to find some balance for our kids to get a healthy body, healthy mind and create an overall healthy individual.”

Biking and walking to school is a simple way to increase a child’s activity levels, Nemeth said.

Some of the students in the Earn-A-Bike program had their bikes stolen and didn’t have the money to replace them or their bikes needed repairs. For others, their current bikes were too small.

During the program’s cycle, students work on donated bicycles from 816 Bicycle Collective.  Priesmeyer notes what repairs each bicycle needs and then teaches the students how to make those repairs. When students complete the program, they receive a bicycle tool kit and they’re allowed to take the bicycle they worked on home.

“It’s an incentive to have the kids be able to look forward to something,” Priesmeyer said. “They can take away the maintenance skills too, so if there ever is a problem, they can’t make an excuse, ‘Oh, my bike is broken.’ They can fix it themselves.”

Learning how to fix her own bike is one of the reasons that Cheffen said she signed up for the program.

Cheffen rattled off a number of things she learned, like how to fix a flat tire, how to fix the chain, how to perform a safety check and use the correct hand signals when turning, among others.

Angela Torres said she learned how bicycles are more economical than cars. Instead of paying for gas or making car payments, you can save money and ride your bike, she said.

Both Torres and Jasmine Garcia said they’re glad they know how to fix their bikes now.

“It makes me happy because now I won’t have to tire my dad because he would always have to fix my bike,” Torres said. “Now that I know how to fix it, it’s fine…

“Now that I have my own bike, I can go ride around with my friends for fun.”

Asked what she enjoyed about the program, Priesmeyer said “I like that it’s an intimate setting with a few kids and it’s so comprehensive. There’s a lot that’s covered. The main thing I like about it is how excited and passionate the kids are by the end and just really seeing the kids stick with it; seeing how much they care about it is really cool.”

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