Few encounters are more memorable than those between children and new bikes. The magic was on full view at Wednesday’s launch of the CYCLE Kids program in Brooklyn at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School.
Throughout the morning, students handled bicycle tools, spun wheels, peppering volunteers with questions, straddled bike seats and strapped on bicycle helmets (photos throughout) as part of their official introduction to a curriculum-based-program that teaches biking skills, safety and nutrition to 4th- and 5th-grade school children.
Proceeds from the organization’s first New York City fundraiser last year are supporting the CYCLE Kids launch at Benjamin Franklin, as well as John F. Hyland Elementary School. Both schools, located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, have shown leadership in wellness education, according to Julianne Idlet, founder and executive director of CYCLE Kids.
“I’m so happy to see this,” Idlet said, as she supervised the unpacking of colorful and sturdy Specialized mountain bikes that the students, working with volunteers from Bicycle Habitat, would help to assemble. Later she welcomed each of the six classes and their teachers, handing out bright-orange CYCLE Kids bracelets and engaging the children in spirited conversation about riding bicycles.
Idlet, a long-time cycling enthusiast and former marketing executive, founded the not-for-profit program in 2004 to help reverse the trend in childhood obesity. It focuses on the joy of bike-riding to encourage children to develop active, healthy habits for a lifetime, Idlet says. The classroom component is designed to enhance literacy and create opportunities for mentoring.
Tommy Torres, the school’s only physical education teacher for more than 400 students in grades Pre-K to 7, says that in these budget-strapped times the school relies on privately funded programs such as this to expand much-needed physical education opportunities in a neighborhood where obesity and asthma are common.
Assistant principal and wellness coordinator, Juliana Notaro, noted that, in establishing enthusiasm for cycling early, CYCLE Kids also forms a valuable bridge to the off-site Kids Ride Club, a comprehensive youth cycling program sponsored by Recycle-A-Bicycle, with which the school also has an affiliation.
CYCLE Kids, for which Olympian and women’s pro cyclist Evelyn Stevens of Team Specialized-Lululemon was recently named director of outreach, currently serves schools in Boston and New York City and seeks to expand nationally.
From left: Julianne Idlet, CYCLE Kids founder and executive director, and Kristy Scrymgeour, owner and manager of women’s pro cycling Team Specialized-Lululemon.
By lunch time, 10 freshly assembled bicycles hung from hooks along the gym wall.
“So what do you think of these bikes?” a volunteer asked the group of children clustered around him.
“Awesome,” replied one boy. It’s a sentiment that also summed up the morning.
To learn more or make a contribution, click here: www.cyclekids.org
Photos: 1, 3 and 7 Kristy Scrymgeour/velociosports. Others: velojoy