Changing the Culture: SBBIKE's Education Dream

Ten years ago, when I started with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition (SBBIKE), my vision was to teach bicycle education in schools countywide. I never thought I’d be able to do it. I didn’t think I could get support from the community. I’m grateful to Audacious for giving me the opportunity to realize my dream.

At SBBIKE, we know how to teach bicycling. We know that changing the habits of this generation of kids (who don’t know how to ride) means offering bicycle education from second through sixth grade at least. We know that, if we help kids discover the independence of bicycling, we’ll change the culture of the community. It’s a long-term challenge, because parents think biking is dangerous. Riding to school has declined since the ’70s.

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The good news is we’re changing that trend.

One, we’re increasing strategies that work:

  • Starting young– Bicycle education in second/third grade plants seeds for the joy of bicycling and the skills to ride.
  • Continuing– In upper grades, we give those seeds water and sunlight. We teach students to become bicycle drivers who know the rules of the road.
  • Leading field trips– Our dream is to take every class to the MOXI, the zoo, any destination they can imagine—to show them the bike is transportation.
  • Giving bikes to kids who don’t have them– What we do in school is just a start. Kids need to learn by themselves.
  • Hosting family events– Family nights, giveaways, and rides get the community involved. Parents rediscover the joy of riding.

Two, we’re seeing humungous results. The community is aware and wants to help. At Adams Elementary School, bicycle education started in 2013. Now, the PE teacher can recruit Spanish-speaking mothers’ help. Parents come to Bici Centro (SBBIKE’s DIY shop) to clean bikes for giveaways. 

Last year, San Marcos High students (who learned to ride at Adams) started a bike club, which refurbishes bikes for younger kids. This continuing of the cycle is the best news of all.

Three, municipalities are making improvements. The City of Santa Barbara’s Bicycle Master Plan means infrastructure will change in the next ten years. For example, Westside families will be able to ride to the beach without worrying about traffic on the dedicated Las Positas bike path.

Four, leadership around the county is catching on. Many schools are seeking help, desperate to offer bicycle education.

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Audacious support has magnified SBBIKE’s programs and the work of the community’s dedicated educators. We’re teaching bicycling in 20+ schools. We have much more to do. Educators, parents, and community members can keep the momentum going. Without you, the progress won’t be sustainable.

  1. Support biking programs. Principals, teachers, staff, ride with the kids. Take pictures. Get involved. It’s empowering to students, especially those who struggle.
  2. Invite parents and extended family. Kids love when loved ones see them mastering a skill.
  3. Donate your old bicycle: Bici Centro will give it a new life.
  4. Start a bike train in your neighborhood. We have a video to show you how.
  5. Participate in Bike to School Day.
  6. If your bike needs work, come to Bici Centro. We’ll show you how to fix it.
  7. If your school needs better bike infrastructure, get involved! Write a letter to city council, especially in Santa Barbara North County.

Are there challenges to ensuring every kid learns to ride and has safe places to do so? To changing the culture? Yes. But with community support, we can be successful. The kids are ready to ride.