Program to teach 3,000 kids annually bike riding skills and safety, helping them be more physically active
After two years in development, Bike Utah has launched their Youth Bicycle Education and Safety Training (BEST) program, a no-cost statewide effort to teach kids how to safely and confidently get around by bicycle. The Youth BEST program officially started in September, and is held at schools as a 5-hour, hands-on program for 5th through 7th graders.
During the course of the program, kids learn the benefits of riding a bicycle, the rules of the road, how to adjust and wear a helmet, how to navigate intersections, how to avoid hazards, and how to make sure their bike is in safe working order.
Bike Utah secured several grants to fund the program, so it’s free to any school or student wanting to participate. Bike Utah provides a trained instructor, bicycles, helmets, and all other necessary equipment to be used during the program. The program is mobile and has the capacity to be implemented at schools in all corners of the state.
“Fifty years ago, nearly 45 percent of students walked or rode a bicycle to school and only about 15 percent caught a ride in a family vehicle. Today’s numbers are virtually the exact opposite,” said Phil Sarnoff, executive director of Bike Utah. “As a state, we need to create an environment where students can get to school under their own power. Through the Youth BEST Program, we hope to encourage schools, students, and families to recreate their communities into places where everyone can be physically active.”
In addition to the student curriculum, the program works with schools to determine how they can make their surrounding environments better and safer for bicycling and walking. Bike Utah is also interested in collaborating with parent groups such as PTAs that are interested in developing school-based transportation solutions.
In just six weeks, the program reached more than 330 students and the results have been impressive. Based on initial assessments, students have increased their knowledge of safe bicycling by 80% and parents are indicating that their students are almost twice as likely to want to bike to school after participating in the program.
Bike Utah received support for the Youth BEST Program from Utah Department of Public Safety, Utah Department of Transportation, Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Utah Department of Health, George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, Mavic, Trek Bikes, Salt Lake City Bicycle Company, Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City Transportation Division, and Bike Utah members.
Anyone who is interested in inviting the Youth BEST program to a Utah school can contact Bike Utah’s Youth Education Coordinator Jace Burbidge at [email protected] More information about the program can be found on bikeutah.org.