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The Bike Más Project: Inspiring Traverse City Youth Through Bicycles

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The Bike Más Project is Norte!’s experience-based after school program for upper elementary students which aims to develop the next generation of active, healthy, engaged young leaders in Traverse City through bike repair, education, safety and adventure. Much adventure!

Thanks to a Safe Routes To School grant and a successful summer fundraiser, we were able to expand to two elementary schools this fall, Eastern and Traverse Heights.

The goal of The Bike Más Project is to build bike culture by engaging students in safe, healthy and active life choices. The program again ran 5 weeks and had a different focus at each session followed by a fun two-wheeled adventure around town.

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Each week had an educational and safety component that seamlessly flowed into a fun active ride. Expectations for behavior and attitude were framed in terms of Traverse Heights Roadrunners (their school mascot) being responsible, respectful, representatives, and what that means in terms of being a part of Norte!. These qualities were talked about at each session so students could really own them.

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Prior to riding we met in the library to talk about various aspects of riding and review what had been learned the week before. For example, one week the focus was trail riding and etiquette. Everyone was given a bell and mounted it on their bike. We discussed staying to the right and alerting slower trail users when passing, moving to the left and giving a friendly ding or “hello”.

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The need to ride safe was also stressed at each session, and framed in terms of being responsible for yourself and all those around you. We learned about proper helmet fit and use, and took the pledge to wear our helmets every time we ride.

Students learned about the importance of safe riding practices as the first line of defense against crashes. We talked about where to be positioned on the road, how to signal and the importance of communicating to those around you. We practiced riding a straight line and being predictable as an important way to avoid crashes.

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We learned that bikes have rights and responsibilities as vehicles on the road, and have to follow the same laws as cars. We practiced these concepts and skills by way of fun adventures to nearby parks and public places. We visited:

  • Jupiter Park
  • F&M Park
  • Boardman Lake
  • The Public Library
  • East Bay Park
  • Hull Park
  • The Children’s Garden
  • The Boardman River Fish Weir
  • The Civic Center

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We also worked on bike handling skills including “power starts”, straight line riding, cornering and even a teeter-totter. We encourage students with talk about the importance of patience and dedicated practice.

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Another important aspect of the program was the opportunity to explore things right in their neighborhood or very close by, and for students to recognize their ability to be independent, as they grow older. For instance, students rode to the public Library and were able to get information on how to register for library cards. We then walked out back to visit the wonderful Children’s Garden, Hull Park and beautiful Boardman Lake.

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Another bike adventure we took was to the DNR’s Boardman River Weir in downtown TC. It was awesome. Mucho salmon!

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The 5th and final week was our end of program fiesta. We rode to F&M Park for a pizza party and bike-powered smoothies by The Daily Blend. Pinata smashing happened, of course, and we even got to hang out with World Tour Pro rider and Traverse City boy, Larry Warbasse.  Awesome, right?!?

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Each student received a “Bike Champion” certificate and was recognized for his or her unique contribution and strengths. Community partners who donated to our The Bike Mas Project + You, our summer fundraiser, joined us at the celebration, where we were able to recognize them too.

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One of Norte!’s real successes is creating a program that was embraced beyond the students engaged this fall, and that will continue on in the future.

Let’s do it again in the spring!

Bike Happy. Bike Más. Bike TC.