students change a tire in leadership class
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Bishop O’Byrne students take bike leadership to local elementary schools

Many Alberta High Schools have Leadership courses. They expect students to develop and apply skills in group problem solving, create and act on plans for personal growth and show communication, problem solving, teamwork and participation skills.

One Calgary school is partnering with Youth en Route to offer a special Leadership experience that focusses on Active Transportation and the impacts of this great work will reverberate across the city for years to come.

Amanda Tam and Bonnie Munn are co-teaching the Leadership class at Bishop O’Byrne High School in the SW community of Shawnessy. There are about 70 students enrolled – and more than half are in the YER program.

Working with younger students

For many years, BOB, as the school is fondly known, has done outreach with the Leadership students to the elementary schools in the area. This year, that outreach has a bike focus.

For the past month, BOB students have been exposed to learning materials and guest speakers to help them learn about helmets and concussions, wayfinding or choosing a safe route, bike repair and maintenance and traffic safety.

Now, they’ll go out to teach what they’ve learned to Grades 4, 5 or 6 students at JJ Obrien (Bridalwood) Father James Whelihan (Sundance), St. Boniface (Bonavista) and St. William (Willow Park.) Every Wednesday, the students will ride bikes to their assigned elementary school, along routes they’ve chosen for safety, to work their partner classes. They’ll share their knowledge about bikes and biking.

Guest speakers engage and share knowledge

Youth en Route brought in four guest speakers over a couple of weeks. Students learned about four key topics, bike helmet safety, wayfinding, traffic safety and bike repair and maintenance.

Here’s a run down of what they’ve learned:

Why wear a bike helmet?

Hayley Christensen and Shane Rempel of the  Southern Alberta Brain Injury Society

students learn about brain injuries
Students learn about brain injuries

Shane and Hayley both shared very personal stories about the impacts of brain injuries and how wearing a helmet can save your life. It was emotional and impactful. Students also learned that brain injuries can be invisible, but still debilitating. And it affects not only the person with the injury, but their families, friends and caregivers.

Students learned that the best helmet is the one you’re comfortable wearing. Generally helmets are designed for the most common way the user falls. So for bikes, the protection is on the top of the head, but skateboarders or skiers usually fall chin-first, so there is protection on the lower part of the head.

Fit is also important. A bike helmet should be snug, so it stays still when you shake your head, but comfortable. It should come midway down your forehead and stay in place.

Designing Cities for Transportation Choice

Jon Van Heyst P.Eng, Director of Bike Calgary and civil engineer

Jon shared images from around Calgary of different places people bike, and showed how it’s not conducive to making a cyclist feel safe or comfortable.

Students learned that the keys to making biking easier is to separate users by their speed, make it reliable, easy to use and accessible to everyone. He shared a neat video from Not Just Bikes about how to get to the IKEA store in Amsterdam. That lead to an activity to plot the route to Ikea from the school. Students came up with a range of routes and ways to get there.

Students study City of Calgary maps to find a route

When Jon asked how having more travel options might impact their lives, students responded that they’d like the flexibility and ability to get more places. They also talked about cost savings and health benefits.

How to be safe on your Bike

Janet Aucoin and Tate HubkaRao , researchers, Cumming School of Medicine U of C ‘s CHASE project

The number one threat to Childhood in Canada is unintentional and preventable injuries – with motor vehicle crashes the most common cause of deaths in youth age 10-24.

At the Alberta Children’s hospital, biking is the most common cause of visits to the emergency department and hospitalizations, ahead of ice hockey and playground equipment. But if you can predict it, you can prevent it!

Online presentation from researchers at the U of C’s School of Medicine

What does that look like? It’s not just the child responsible for injury prevention. When it comes to cycling and cycling infrastructure, governments have a big role to play. Tate and Janet talked about Vision Zero, and what it means and how it could impact them. Lowering speed limits, for example, can dramatically reduce the number of deaths when cars collide with pedestrians or cyclists.

Bike Maintenance and Repair

Adam Rhind, bike mechanic and owner of Bathtub Bikes

One of the biggest barriers for students to feel comfortable going any distance on their bikes is the risk of breakdown. How do we limit that risk? Give students the tools to check their bikes, make minor repairs and teach them how to keep a bike in good working order. That was the goal of this short seminar.

Adam started with the basics: What you need. His suggestions include a metric allen key set, an adjustable wrench, tire levers and rags to clean with and lubricant.

Students then were able to try changing a tire. Taking the tire off the rim and putting the tube and tire back on and pump it up.

students change a bike tire
Students at Bishop O’Byrne HS learn to change a bike tire

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share what the elementary students learn from these Leadership students.

Want to help? Kids need bikes!

Access to a bicycle is a big issue at all of these elementary schools. Youth en Route has arranged for BOB high school to get 15 bikes and helmets so the student can all take their show on the road to elementary schools. But there is another issue with kids at Elementary schools having bikes.

Principals went around to see how many kids in the participating class diddn’t have bikes. At Father Whelihan it was 35. At JJ Obrien and St. Williams, there were 8 students each. We’d like to try and get bikes to these schools so each student can participate without having to share.

If you have a bike for a students aged 9-11, please reach out and we’ll figure out a way to get them to the schools. (Good thing the Senior High Kids have some knowledge of bike repair and maintenance.)

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