Photo credit Caitlin Christensen
“Thank you a million times over for the AWESOME class! The students had a wonderful time and teachers all over our school have been commenting how great it was to see the students engaged and joyful. The coaches were great and accommodating and incredibly responsive to the needs of the students.
I definitely hope to have you back again next year.”
–Caitlin Christensen, Special Education Teacher, Life Academy
Bike East Bay’s education program brought the joy of riding to 17 middle and high school students with special needs this April with a Learn-to-Ride class at Life Academy in Oakland. When special education teacher Caitlin Christensen approached us with the idea for the class, we jumped at the opportunity to help her students enhance their mobility and independence. Over the course of 3 hours our instructors worked with each student on the basics of balancing, pedaling, and steering (as well as an unplanned fix-a-flat training!).
More Than Just a Bike
We know how life-changing a bicycle can be, with many positive impacts including increased physical fitness. These health impacts can be even more significant for youth with cognative disabilities like Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorders. A 2003-2008 Centers for Disease Control survey estimated that obesity rates for children with disabilities were 38% higher than for others, due in part to a lack of accessible environments and resources to enable regular physical activity.
The evidence from this survey also showed that routine physical activity like bicycling provides health benefits for people with disabilities, including “improved cardiovascular and muscle fitness, improved mental health, and better ability to do tasks of daily life” such as activities with friends and family, or accessing job centers.
However, muscle tone and motor skills challenges can leave students frustrated and anxious about learning to ride, leading to low success rates. To account for this our instructor team creates a supportive and step-by-step learning environment at every class, bringing the bikes, the fun, and many years of experience helping folks get on two wheels for the first time.
We look forward to returning to Life Academy, reconnecting with the amazing teachers and students to continue these trainings. Click here to access “thank you” letters and drawings from the participants and read about what being able to ride a bicycle means to them.
Ride With Us
If you would like to participate in future learn-to-ride or other free bike skills class, sign up at BikeEastBay.org/education.
To request a free workshop for your school, business, or community group, send in an application:
“Thank You!” to our program funders who make these valuable classes and partnerships possible:
- Alameda County Transportation Commission
- City of Alameda
Photo credit Caitlin Christensen
More reading and citations:
- Centers for Disease Control: Disability and Obesity
- Boston Globe: With help, those with disabilities are learning to bike
- Bicycle Training for Youth With Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Adapted Bicycles for Teaching Riding Skills [PDF]
- Interview-Based Study of Cycle Training in Children with Cognitive Impairment