In Washington D.C., cycling will now be a part of the elementary school curriculum. This year, all second graders in the city’s public schools are learning how to ride a bike in phys ed.
The city already incorporates bike safety education into its curriculum as part of Safe Routes to School, a national nonprofit that encourages biking and walking to school. Instructors from a local bike advocacy nonprofit come and teach the kids basic safety skills to help them bike to school safely—but the instructors began to notice that large groups of kids didn’t just need safety training, they needed more basic instruction on how to ride a bike in the first place.
Learning to ride a bike is generally something you do outside of school, with your parents or family, so if you don’t have access to a bike, a safe place to ride, and a relative with the time and inclination to teach you, it’s easy to grow up never learning.
So the city decided to make bike riding a part of D.C. Public Schools' Cornerstones curriculum, implemented across the entire school district. The D.C. Department of Transportation bought 475 sturdy bikes that will be transferred between schools across the district. The program is designed so that a quarter of the district’s elementary schools will have enough bikes and helmets at any one time so that each second grader will get his or her own bike during P.E. After a few weeks, the bikes will be rotated to a different school. Another 475 bikes are on order, so that eventually half the elementary schools in the district will have them at once.
Since some second graders already know how to ride, those kids will have a chance to do obstacle courses or otherwise improve their riding skills, while those who have never been on a bike will have more specialized instruction to learn the basics. The universal bike education initiative will also put the city’s expanding bike share program within reach for more people. The goal is to give more people in D.C. the ability to get around town in a healthy, environmentally friendly, cost-efficient way.