Did You Know?

Half of school children walked or biked to school in 1969, but only 13 percent were doing it in 2009.

Students learn how to safely get around in Oak Park

Thanks to a partnership between Active Trans, the Oak Park School District and Greenline Wheels, more than 1,000 Oak Park elementary school students recently took part in bike safety and education programs.
As soon as next year, supporters hope to see this program expand with a mobile fleet of bikes in order to reach even more students.

“It’s part of a process that we have been working on in Oak Park, and in the region in general, trying to promote bicycle safety and use as transportation in the school environment,” said Jason Jenkins, Active Trans’ education specialist and crash support programs manager.

But educating students on bike safety poses many logistical challenges, including how to get bikes to school, where to keep them and what to do if a student doesn’t have a bike.

Greenline Wheels, an Oak Park bike rental shop that describes itself as “a social mission business with a focus on cycling advocacy,” helped solve these logistical issues by providing bikes and helmets to students who needed them.

As part of the effort, Greenline Wheels general manager Abigail Miller and assistant manager David Poppei and Horace Mann Elementary School PE instructor Margaret Garcia all became League of American Bicyclists League Bicycling Instructors and trained Oak Park’s physical education teachers on bike safety last spring.

The team was able to visit all Oak Park elementary schools, targeting grades three and four specifically.

“We want kids to get introduced to the concept of signaling, riding in a straight line, obeying the rules of the road, thinking of their bike as a vehicle not a toy, and awareness of where hazards are and how to avoid them,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said Active Trans hopes to expand the program as soon as next year with what he calls a Bikes-on-Wheels program. “Basically, it’s an enclosed trailer that has a complete fleet of about thirty bikes, helmets, and all the necessary equipment to manage the program … and it would be on loan to the school district,” Jenkins said.

This would enable PE instructors to do an entire unit on bike safety, with technical support and training provided by Active Trans.

“We are relatively confident that we will be able to do something like that next year with Oak Park,” Jenkins said. “The school district superintendent and the executive director of the park district have already expressed support and interest in the program.”

The fleet would also serve Oak Park residents when it’s used by the park district for summer programming. After the first year, if the municipality is still interested, Active Trans would show the municipality how to purchase its own fleet.

Active Trans would then take the original fleet of Bikes-on-Wheels to another municipality to repeat the process, teaching ever-increasing numbers of students how to safely get around on bikes.