Kids Learn Bicycle Skills and Lessons for Living Healthy, Active Lives
Tucson’s inaugural Youth Summer Bike Camp was a success thanks to a partnership among local cycling organizations and Pima County. More than 50 local children ages 8-13 gained bicycling skills, healthy lifestyle knowledge and confidence in a fun, peer-lead environment. The camp was so well received that co-coordinators are already planning for another camp next year.
“It was a huge success on all fronts,” said Daniela Diamente, El Grupo Youth Cycling Director and a co-coordinator of the camp. “We had an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone. The kids had a blast.”
Several Pima County departments, El Grupo and Bicycle Inter-Community Art & Salvage (BICAS) joined together to offer three weeklong summer camp sessions. Each session, which ran from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, used fun, hands-on activities to teach bicycle maintenance and safety as well as healthful living tips.
Pima County Department of Transportation (PCDOT) Bicycle & Pedestrian Program provided nationally certified bike safety instruction through the Bike Ambassadors program, and more than a dozen El Grupo members ages 14-18, who are part of a United Way Youth Health Leadership Team, served as youth instructors. Under their guidance, campers learned to pick safe cycling routes and took group rides ranging from 5-20 miles depending on ability level.
“We really focused on bikes as a form of transportation,” Diamente said. “We rode to different parks and did bike-handling activities there and explored local neighborhoods. We wanted to show that you can use your bike to get places and it can be fun to use your bike.”
The campers’ riding skills and confidence levels increased by leaps and bounds in just one week. One camper who didn’t know how to ride a bike on the first day went on to ride eight miles on the last day of the weeklong camp.
“It was amazing to see how much they learned,” Diamente said. “Every kid left with more skills.”
Campers learned that in addition to being fun, riding a bike can be part of a healthful and sustainable lifestyle – an important lesson in a county where childhood obesity rates are startlingly high due in large part to sedentary lifestyles and limited access to nutritional information.
Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW), a national grant to reduce obesity and related chronic diseases overseen by the Pima County Health Department, helped develop the Youth Summer Bike Camp curriculum and provided bilingual promotional support. The Community Food Bank with the El Grupo instructors shared information about nutrition and making healthful food choices. The County’s Department of Environmental Quality Clean Air Program added air pollution information and awareness to the mix and supplied funds for patch kits, tire tubes, safety lights, bike repair tools and other supplies used during the camp.
In addition to gaining bicycling skills and self-assurance, campers received certificates of achievement, camp T-shirts and goodie bags with helmets, bike maps, bumper stickers and Share the Road guides thanks to PCDOT. Bicycle company Specialized provided seat pouches and customized water bottles for all campers and scholarships for those who couldn’t afford the $150 camp fee.
The first bike camp was such a success that the co-coordinators are already planning to offer an even bigger camp next summer, Diamente said.
“The kids were so excited about it,” she said. “We will definitely do it again. You better bet there will be Summer Bike Camp 2012.”
For more information about the organizations involved in the Youth Summer Bike Camp, please visit:
Pima County Department of Transportation – http://bikeped.pima.gov
Pima County Health Department Communities Putting Prevention to Work – www.healthypima.org
Pima County Department of Environmental Quality Clean Air Program – www.deq.pima.gov/air/CAP.html
El Grupo Youth Cycling – http://elgrupocycling.org
BICAS – http://bicas.org