Riding with the James John Bike Club: Part One

Bike ClubFor the past several weeks, I have been volunteering with the Bike Club at James John Elementary in St. John’s. Along with lead instructors Kim and Collin, I have been working to transform a group of 14 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders into safe and responsible cyclists.

As you might imagine, accomplishing a goal like this is not without challenges. When we first met our students, despite their universal enthusiasm for bicycles, we found that we had a very high-energy group with differing levels of experience and comfort learning and riding in a group.

In the three weeks following that initial Bike Club we have seen shells crack, confidence rise, and the skills necessary for staying safe on the road develop.

One student, Amalya*, was extremely uncomfortable addressing the group at first. In the intervening weeks, she has proven to be a bottomless well of bike knowledge and proudly leads our group in various activities.

Another student, Serena, knew the rules of the road but lacked confidence to put her knowledge into practice. She now happily leads the group on rides around the St. John’s neighborhood.

One of my favorite Bike Club experiences revolves around Brandon, a student who possesses an incredible amount of energy and a sense of humor like only a kid his age can have. When we’re off our bikes working on skill-building activities it takes all three of us adults to get his attention and help him focus. But, when we’re on our bikes, he transforms from a rambunctious comedian into a Champion of Bike Safety. His transformation from regular Brandon to on-the-bike Brandon is so complete and staggering that it has to be seen to be believed.

In the weeks I have been working with this group I have learned so much about each of the students. I’ve learned things about my own bike that I didn’t previously know. I’ve even learned some radical break dancing moves. This is the first semester that I’ve volunteered for Bike Club and I’m already looking forward to the next.

* All students’ names have been changed to protect their privacy

This story reported by volunteer Bike Club assistant Brian McIntyre
Photo by Kim Whitney

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