Two Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students are teaching bicycle safety to area kids, a community service project they say is much-needed with more options for bike-use coming to the county.
James Becker, a rising junior, and Alex Van Hollen, a rising senior, are organizing and leading the classes as their project for the school’s Lazarus Program, a community service initiative for 15 B-CC students who attend seminars, do leadership training and put their projects into motion during the summer.
Becker on Friday set up cones on a basketball court in Somerset, then taught a group of six 8- to 13-year-olds how to brake, check their bikes before riding, properly wear a helmet and other safety rules in a three-hour class.
“When we’re biking we notice that the kids, they don’t really know how to bike,” said Becker, who grew up biking in Copenhagen. “We saw that in the community so we really wanted to help the kids in the area, so they’re not hurting themselves and putting other people in danger.”
With Capital Bikeshare coming to Bethesda in September, Becker said the pair thought a bike safety class would be a timely project and he didn’t see any similar programs already out there.
The response to the program bears that out.
Within 48 hours of posting info about the classes on area elementary school listservs, Becker said the two got emails back from more than 40 families, or about 85 kids, interested in signing up. The classes, which ran for three days last week at Capello Park in Somerset and will run today through Thursday at the B-CC Rescue Squad, are free and limited to about 10 kids per session.
They found two certified bike instructors – Frank Loversky, the junior coach at Rock Creek Velo Bike Club, and Sam Mazur, from the League of American Bicyclists.
On Friday, Loversky helped the kids adjust their helmets and seats for the proper fit.
The kids in the class certainly aren’t in the target demographic for Capital Bikeshare, but Becker said the two decided on teaching kids to help grow a more bike-friendly culture.
“If you don’t learn it when you’re young, it’s hard to learn it as an adult,” Becker said.
Becker and Van Hollen went to a Confident City Cycling class last fall in Bethesda hosted by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association to provide some framework for their class. They traveled around the area to see other classes and came up with a three-part lesson plan: Rules of the road, bike and helmet fit and then handling, when the kids get to ride around the course and test their skills on the street.
The effort also took quite a bit of organizing. The two made a presentation before the Somerset Town Council for permission to use the basketball court at Capello Court, and got unanimous approval. They reached out to local bike organizations such as WABA and LAB for advice and got some equipment from Bethesda Transit Solutions, a division of the Bethesda Urban Partnership.