Empowering youth with new skills

Stuart Saavedra

Rob Cooks

Our data tells us six per cent of high school students in Calgary never been on a bike. Many more don’t have the skills to ride as transportation. We are teaching this important life skill. 

Youth en Route, empowered with new funding from Jumpstart Children’s Charities, were at Forest Lawn High school delivering bike education programs to PE 20 and 30 classes earlier this month. 

Rob Crooks and Stuart Saavedra were hired as our Cyclists in Residence and were thrown into it teaching these classes right off the bat. 

We worked out lesson plans with teachers with learning outcomes including helmet use, bike fitting, basic maintenance, cycling safety and riding skills including starting, stopping, turning and changing gears. 

Using school’s fleet

 The school has a fleet of bikes and helmets and a large unused parking lot. Everything was in place to deliver an excellent cycling unit. 

“It was really an inspiring week. The students were so keen and eager to be riding,” said YER executive director Laura Shutiak. “It was amazing to see the progress so many students made during the week. They went from tentatively turning corners and changing gears, to charging up the small hill behind the school with confidence.” 

There were six students who’d never been on a bike until that week. Most were riding just two days in.

Seeing cycling empowerment in action

“Working with these rookies was really rewarding,” said Saavedra, remembering a certain student who wasn’t participating on the first day. “He said he couldn’t ride, and seemed to say that it wasn’t worth teaching him. I offered some encouragement, sharing that I wanted to see him give it a try. The next day he was riding and yelling at us “I can do it!” 

We started those students on our full-size run bike. Students are able to get the field of balance and braking without pedals in the way. They moved up the skill progression to turns and even slalom courses. 

“What you did for my kids was incredible and they surely benefited,” wrote PE 20 teacher Jill Kielty in an email. “ I met Michelle’s dad (name changed to protect privacy)  last night at Meet the Teacher and he thanked me for teaching her how to ride a bike. He said he has tried ( lol) but had failed. 

“I said – oh I didn’t teach her this lovely organization’s staff did. They are great!! He is grateful! So worth it for that one experience to happen!” 

Rob Cooks explaining bike riding skills to a student

Learning about Vision Zero, wayfinding and more

On the fourth day, we brought in City of Calgary Bike Path maps and shared how to find a safe route. We discussed the importance of riding where you feel comfortable and considered the many routes that the City considers part of their bike routes, but are far from their 5A standards – Always Available for All Ages and Abilities. 

“The kids were really into it. It was great to see,” said Crooks. “I think this tiny peek into City Building and how roads can be  designed for safety got them thinking. I wouldn’t be surprised that a few would call 311 to log issues. Knowledge can really empower youth.” 

Both Crooks and Saavedra are eager to land at our next project school and the next group of teens. 

“The determination from the youth at FLHS is amazing and their commitment to push themselves on and off of bikes was impressive,” said Saavedra. 

Students listening to Rob Cooks during bike repair lessons
Students during bike riding lessons
Students putting on a tire

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