Holiday Bike Drive Stories: Sarah Royal, Bike Safety Educator

Bikes for Kids at New Columbia

We’re sharing some of our favorite Holiday Bike Drive stories with you all month long. And we’d love to hear your story, too! Tell your Holiday Bike Drive story over on our Facebook page. 

Sarah Royal is an amazing advocate for bike safety. As a member of Bike and Build, she rode cross-country teaching bike safety to kids. She began volunteering with the Community Cycling Center last year, and has continued spreading her passion for safety education at the Holiday Bike Drive and Bikes For Kids. We’re so lucky to have her on the team again this year!

Sarah sat down with us to tell us what she loves about the Holiday Bike Drive, and why teaching bike safety is a lot more fun than you might think.

Why is bicycle safety education important?
You take for granted that kids know how to ride bikes. Especially in Portland, where bikes permeate the culture, but a lot of people still don’t know the rules… Part of the idea of the Holiday Bike Drive is to make kids into cyclists for life, and for that to happen they need to know the rules of the road.

How does bike safety work at the Holiday Bike Drive?
There are about six safety education steps that kids go through before helmet fitting, getting their bikes, and the bike rodeo. We want to prep them before they obtain anything physical, so they go through these six steps, including helmet safety, an egg drop to demonstrate how a helmet protects their brain, then we talk about what do cyclists wear, how to make sure your bike is fit for riding, how to interpret different things in the road, then turns and signals- and then once they feel prepared they go into the helmet fitting area.

I’m usually at the end of things, but we try to keep going back to the earlier steps, referencing them. Then when they’re in the bicycle rodeo, we want them to remember the earlier steps. We want to keep referencing back, so there are basic tenets they remember. Safety is first in order and first in importance. It’s good stewardship to make sure the kids learn to bike as safely possible.

How do the kids feel going through the safety education?
They’re excited, we’re engaging with them. They realize that they’re still getting their bike, they know it’s all part of the same deal. If you keep talking about their bike, they’re get even more excited. They’re just kind of getting into anything related to bikes, it’s what’s lighting up in their mind. They’re answering questions and they know more than you think they do… It’s almost like they’ve studied, they’re ready!

Why did you start doing bicycle safety education for the Holiday Bike Drive?
It was a good fit, I’ve done it before, and I’ve worked with kids. I remember my first bike and the freedom of it, and I just wanted to share that. The safety education is the best opportunity during the event to actually engage with kids. When you’re talking to them about things that are important, it’s a challenge for me to put it on their level, but if you get into their mind, it’s really fun. I love chatting with kids and learning why they’re excited about this.

What have you personally gotten out of volunteering?
Anything related to kids and bikes is just so fulfilling! Working with kids, and providing a need for them, they’re going to be 100% excited about it. There is not a single kid at the Holiday Bike Drive that is upset they’re getting a bike. It makes it 100% fun for me, it’s giving back with no hesitation that it’s going be a fun experience. The parents are really excited about it as well.

I just keep going back to being a kid and being really excited about my first bike. I took it for granted that I had a bike as a kid, I want to make sure that other kids have the same opportunity. It’s just super fun. If we’re really trying to make this into a cycling city, everyone, across all backgrounds, incomes, neighborhoods, everyone deserves to have a bike.

Photo taken at Bikes for Kids at New Columbia by Joel Schneier

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