HUB Cycling has expanded its fleet for Bike to School instruction to include three adaptive bicycles, meaning students with mobility impairments can take part in lessons with their classmates and learn to ride on city streets.
The regional cycling network, HUB reached over 4,000 Metro Vancouver students in Grade 3 to 7 last year for its twice-annual Bike to School program, which combines in-class lessons about rules of the road and best practices with practical rides on school grounds and neighbourhood streets.
Students without bikes of their own can request to use one from HUB’s large fleet. But children with mobility impairments were often left behind because, according to the manager of bike education, Alyshia Burak, their single adaptive bike was very heavy and not suitable or appealing for a majority of children.
“We had one trike and in the past two years that I’ve been working here, it was only requested twice,” said Burak in an interview with me.
With three new sets of adaptive wheels, including two recumbent tricycles of different sizes and a pedal-free balance bike, HUB has reached a dozen more students in only a few months.
In visits to 11 schools so far this spring, 10 students have requested one of the adaptive bikes. Three more students have already asked to use the bikes in upcoming school visits.
In Vancouver, a student at Henry Hudson elementary used one of the adaptive tricycles, and in five upcoming visits this spring, one student has already put in a request.
“Already we are reaching many more kids than we have in the past. The bikes we have now are far more fun to ride and that makes it more enjoyable experience for those students,” said Burak.
The three bikes were purchased thanks to a $5,000 grant from the GoodLife Kids Foundation. HUB estimates the bikes will be used by at least 80 kids this year alone.
The Bike to School session instructors also benefited from meeting with from Nathan DeWitt, a wheelchair sprinter who competed for Canada at the 2012 London Games. An athlete with cerebral palsy, told the HUB instructors how to best support young students as they learned to use the adaptive bikes.
“He really helped us to understand the differing types of needs and how we might best work with students with disabilities,” said Burak.
She said learned to follow the lead of the student in order to make the experience as positive and beneficial as possible for their own confidence and comfort on the bike and the road. They learned to ask questions of the students such as how the bike felt and if any adjustments could be made but then let them roll with it.
“One key takeaway for me is the student will always know best. They have been living their own life with their symptoms and condition. It was important to ask and then and trust that they know best”
Bike to School Week takes place across Metro Vancouver May 29 to June 2. Schools can sign up for the week-long event and track their combined rides at bikehub.ca/btsw.