Everyone can ride a bike. Youth en Route empowers students to gain the confidence and skills they need to use a bike as transportation, no matter their abilities.
We’ve been working to deliver adaptive tricycles to six Calgary Board of Education High Schools.
To date, we’ve delivered nine new trikes, three loaned ones, and two refurbished trikes. We’ve also engaged teachers and aides at Robert Thirsk with a professional development session to make sure students are riding bikes that have the adaptations they need to be successful.
“Riding a bike is basic transportation. It’s exercise. It’s sustainability in motion. This is especially true for youth with different abilities,” explains Youth en Route’s founder and executive director Laura Shutiak.
Recognizing the need
Youth en Route was meeting with outdoor education teachers at Robert Thirsk HS in June when we learned that the special education classes at the school had the use of one trike, but it was shared between eight schools.
What does this mean? Thirsk students might use it for a few months of their entire high school career– if they were lucky. When we asked a few teachers if they’d like some bikes (if we could get them) they were over-the-moon excited.
Teachers explained that for their students, a bike wasn’t a luxury. They’d be used on community walks and help students with diverse abilities travel at the same pace. They’d help students practice using muscles and tune their gross motor skills.
“Students are getting valuable exercise opportunities that help with their regulation,” explains Melissa Karimwabo, TASC teacher. “Our students are so happy when riding the bikes and can be seen smiling away when given the opportunity to ride throughout the day. I love how it brings access to a population of people who may not have had the chance to ride a bike before.”
Youth en Route immediately reached out to adaptive bike experts at Cerebral Palsy Kids and Families to build a partnership and applied for a Return to Play grant being offered by KidSport and the Government of Alberta.
Success with the grant
Youth en Route found out in September that our application was successful. We immediately started the ball rolling to purchase some trikes, hoping to get them to schools so students could try them out.
And they are riding them! And having a blast. For privacy reasons, we can’t share photos of students – but we hope this gets across the value of bikes for these young adults. The giant baskets mean that they can tote things around. At Forest Lawn High School, the PLP class often delivers bagged lunches for students. At Central Memorial, the CSSI class does the school’s recycling. They can now ride around to each classroom and load up the cans and bottles into the trike. We expect to see and hear many more positive stories as more kids get to experience riding.
Reaping the benefits of partners
Youth en Route is very lucky to have some great partners that help us to do this work.
The most cost-effective trikes are built in China and imported. They’re steel, durable and allow many different kinds of adaptations. But they come in boxes and require a bike mechanic to assemble. YER works closely with a group of seniors at the Bike Shed at the Great Forest Lawn Seniors Centre.
Glen Bishop took on the trike project himself – assembling all six of our new bikes in record time.
When we connected with Carol Mertens, the adaptive bike manager at CP Kids and Families, she was happy to support our schools . Her program loans over 600 bikes out every year to families for a small cost.
She was eager share her knowledge with teachers and aides and help them understand how to fit their students on bikes and what adaptations might help the kids be successful. We’ve already presented one PD session at Robert Thirsk, and expect to be able to offer similar sessions at other schools over the school year.
We’ve been able to build fleets of typical bikes at schools, thanks to the support of donations and the Bike Shed, and PE team leaders. These adaptive trikes are just a extension of that – allowing everyone the opportunity to ride at school. For an understanding of the kids of students this project is helping, take a look at the CBE’s special education information .
Where we’ve delivered bikes:
|CSSI / TASC/ PLP/ ALP
|Central Memorial High School
|Forest Lawn High School
|Crescent Height High School
|Bridges, Outdoor Education
|Lester Pearson High School
|Centennial High School
Once students and teachers have had a chance to evaluate the bikes they have, we’ll use the rest of our funds to purchase more with the goal that all special education classes in the city are able to access trikes. We expect that we will be able to purchase about another six bikes – and Lord Beaverbrook and Centennial High School, which both have a number of special classes will get bikes
But we also know that the bike is just a start. We know that teachers would like to be able to get students outside riding, but many schools lack access to accessible pathways that would be safe and easy to ride on. We’d love to help every school get a loop built so all students can do an easy ride around the school grounds in class.