Three Rivers Park District Will Use New Bike Fleet to Teach Safety

Danny McCullough, Heather Gordon and Alex McKinney promote bike safety in Plymouth.

Summer is A great time to take advantage of the city’s many bike trails, but don’t forget to refresh your memory on safety before hitting the road. In local parks, you may see this message being spread by kids learning how to ride safely in a new bike fleet from the Three Rivers Park District.

The bike fleet is the result of a grant the Minnesota Department of Transportation awarded to Three Rivers Park District, and its purpose is to support the Walk! Bike! Fun! Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program at the parks and nearby schools.

Walk! Bike! Fun! is a component of MN Safe Routes to School, a curriculum administered by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, an organization whose mission is “bicycle education, advocacy and efforts to make Minnesota more bicycle friendly.”

The fleet is made up of 35 bikes, adjustable to fit elementary-age students through adults, and two bikes for instructors. The grant also provided funds for a trailer, so that the program’s educators can take the bikes to schools and teach students skills to walk and bike safely in their communities, according to BikeMN’s website.

One of these schools is Plymouth Middle School, chosen for its proximity to French Regional Park.

“[We] wanted to focus on inner-ring suburbs to help get them in touch with our park district in their own communities,” says Danny McCullough, regional trail system manager at Three Rivers Park District.

The park district’s focus in this program is on getting people, especially children, to discover the trail system.

“We really want [residents] to know that we are a resource to them—this is their park system and we want them to use it,” McCullough says.

The bike safety curriculum is focused on students in grades 4 through 8, and its main points include how to safely cross the road; traffic laws and responsible biking; parts of a bike and proper clothing (including a helmet); communication with pedestrians and drivers; and scanning, stopping and proper positioning on the road. Lessons range from changing a flat tire to proper helmet fit to how to “be predictable” and make proper turns.

The park district is partnering with several schools and agencies for the Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum, and local use of the bike fleet will be concentrated in summer day camps at parks including French Regional Park, as well as schools.

The primary goal is teaching kids the rules of the road and the bike, but the classes are also designed to be fun, McCullough says.

Outside groups aren’t able to call and reserve the bikes. Use of the fleet is dedicated to park and school programming, and these bikes were booked up for summer before they were even ready to roll.

Although there’s no more availability for this particular bike fleet, BikeMN can be a good resource for other groups who want to use a similar bike fleet for education. BikeMN’s fleet is available for educators implementing the Walk! Bike! Fun! program, but if there’s additional availability, their use can be granted to other organizations that qualify for no cost.

“In addition, we are doing some rental of the fleet for events or organizations that is fee-based, so there is a possibility for those that aren’t teaching [Walk! Bike! Fun!] to still have access to the bikes,” says CJ Lindor, education specialist at BikeMN.