Owning and riding a bike is a rite of passage. A kid’s first taste of freedom and responsibility.
I asked my nine-year-old what it feels like to ride her bike. “I was so scared to learn to ride a bike, but now that I can ride, I can do much more. It’s something I can do with my sister and my friends,” she told me in her childish stream of consciousness.
My seven-year-old had a similar perspective, “It showed me I can learn to do something I have never done before. It makes me feel brave. I know I am getting stronger and doing something healthy.”
Bikes are Expensive
But a bicycle is an investment, and for some families, it’s simply not in the budget.
In 2005, Paige Carmichael and a handful of friends founded Kids on Bikes to provide kids the resources to live healthy, happy, and active lives. These friends felt that the opportunity for every kid to own a bike should not be dependent on their socioeconomic status.
At the time, there was a marked increase in childhood obesity as well as a decrease in daily physical activity. These friends came from a world where kids rode their bikes to school and around the neighborhood to explore.
Screen Time vs. Outdoor Time
“Today kids spend more time in front of screens than they ever have in the past,” says Kids on Bikes Executive Director, Daniel Byrd. “There is a direct correlation with that having long-term effects on physical and mental health,” he states when describing the urgency behind their mission. “Kids need the opportunity to be active every day,” he emphasizes, “we have even heard from teachers that kids with more energy do better in school after having biked there in the mornings.”
The intricacy and intentionality behind the programming of Kids on Bikes are impressive.
Their team has researched neighborhoods within Colorado Springs that would benefit most from their services. They then fundraise and establish what they call community Bike Libraries. These libraries are re-purposed shipping containers that contain not only refurbished bikes but also helmets and basic tools and parts to fix those bikes, should anything happen to them. Additionally, there is an appointed community leader assigned to each library who is trained to provide specific programming and support for that area.
Kids on Bikes currently partners with 17 community schools for their Earn-a-Bike program, as well. Kids are selected and local leaders are trained to walk alongside those kids as they participate in the program. At the end of the program, kids have the opportunity to earn not only their bike but a helmet, pump, bike lock and patch kit, as well as the knowledge and skill to utilize all of their new tools.
Curated community bike rides are one way to get involved with the organization. Another is The Pedal Station, located on Bott Avenue. It's open seven days a week to take bicycle donations.
“We are the best place for a bike to get a second chance and make sure it doesn’t end up in a landfill,” Byrd states as he goes on to explain how every possible part is salvaged from a bike that might not seem road worthy. As a non-profit organization, they take monetary donations, as well. "For every dollar spent, the organization is able to return $2.72 to the community in the form of social impact; it’s a good investment for those looking to make their donations count.”
“We see no reason we can’t have every kid in the Pikes Peak region have access to a bike,” he says. "They can start now and develop a lifelong passion.”
Community involvement will be key to achieving this goal. There is something for everyone to do to aid in achieving the mission to inspire and empower kids in the Colorado Springs community toward a healthy and active lifestyle regardless of any socioeconomic constraints.
We can all feel the wind in our hair and the sun on our faces as we collectively pedal toward a brighter future.