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Nearly five children are hit by people driving every day in Illinois while walking or biking within one block of a school.

Our new bike education program will get kids rolling

This month marks the launch of a new Active Trans pilot program, Bikes on Wheels. The gist of the program is this: Active Trans loans a 20-foot trailer, 30 single-speed children’s bicycles, helmets and the necessary bike maintenance tools to a community, free of charge, for a year. Oak Park is the first community to participate in the program./

Earlier today, dozens of students at Whittier Elementary School in Oak Park made use of the new bikes while learning bicycling skills like using hand signals, helmet use and basic handling skills like starting, stopping and turning.

Active Trans hopes to bring the trailer to eight Oak Park schools during the course of this year’s program – six schools in the spring and another two in the fall. In the summer, when children will not be in class, the Oak Park Park District will have use of the bicycles for summer camps.

Oak Park Police officers were at the Whittier Elementary bike education event to help direct students through the skills course and reinforce the messages of safe cycling. Also on hand at the kickoff event were representatives from the Oak Park School District, the Oak Park village offices, the Oak Park Cycling Club and Oak Park Park District./

“We’re really pleased to see the kids on the bikes learning safety skills,” said Lisa Schwartz, Oak Park School District Curriculum Director. “This fits very well with the school district’s wellness initiatives.”

Though the trailer will move on to the next community after a year is up, our hope is that the program will create a chain reaction in its participants, inspiring them to purchase their own fleet of bikes for community use. Oak Park has already applied for a state grant for this purpose.

The bikes were purchased thanks to donations from a variety of sources, including the Specialized bicycle company./

At the moment, only communities that have previously worked with Active Trans are in the running to take part in Bikes on Wheels, which requires collaboration between park districts, school districts and Active Trans staff, as well as local businesses and organizations such as bicycle clubs.

But any enthusiastic community has the potential to be in the running, so contact Active Trans if you’re interested in Bikes on Wheels in your town. Contact education@activetrans.org for more information.