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Here’s a section of the press release from the Buncombe County Dept. of Health. Click the link for more info.
This week, 6th grade students at Erwin Middle School are doing something new during their PE classes – they are riding bikes and learning to ride safely. Buncombe County Department of Health, along with the county’s Healthy Buncombe Coalition and other community partners are hosting the Bicycle Skills and Safety Course for students. PE teachers from other schools will also be on hand to observe the program with the possibility of bringing to their schools in the future.
“There is something magical about kids on bikes. Bikes give kids an opportunity to master a skill, give them a sense of freedom, plus they’re fun! It is probably safe to say that health is the last thing on the mind of students at Erwin Middle School this week as they take part in this bicycle skills course”, says Terri March, from the Buncombe County Department of Health and coordinator of Healthy Buncombe Coalition. But health and safety are what this program is all about. Terri March states that research supports the effectiveness of programs that introduce youth to “life sports”, the type of sport students can engage in independently throughout their lives.
It’s important to also recognize that bicycling is also a mode of transportation. “As we work to decrease obesity and other chronic disease associated with physical inactivity, bicycling is seen as a practical way for many to stay active as part of their everyday routine”, says Claudia Nix of Liberty Bikes and the Blue Ridge Bike Club. Stephen Janes of the newly organized WNC Trips for Kids adds “It is especially important that youth develop these skills, confidence and love of cycling at an early age”.
Teachers are also learning how to handle a bicycle safely. Erwin’s four PE teachers have completed the six-hour Traffic Skills 101 course offered by the partners. Teachers completing this course are eligible to participate in a bicycle instructor course that will teach them how to independently provide bicycle education to their students in the future. Grant funding over the past several years has supported the purchase of bicycles and equipment and provided for volunteer training to assist school and community education programs. In November, seven community members received specialized training to expand bicycle education to more schools and increase commuter education in the community and worksites.