by Lisa Montanaro of The Bike Campaign
August 23, 2022
When seven-year-old Joe Marineau began kindergarten two years ago during the pandemic in autumn 2020, his primary opportunity to connect with his classmates was through a computer screen. A year later in August 2021, he entered first grade at Birch Lane Elementary School in Davis, eager to connect with those classmates in person after being stuck home for so long. While Birch Lane Elementary teachers went above and beyond to make classrooms stimulating learning environments, Joe and his classmates were all eager for additional unstructured recreation time. Enter Bike Club.
Joe has been bike riding since he was very young, and hails from a family of bicycle lovers. Joe’s parents are avid cyclists who used to do triathlons and commuted to work by bike in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area. They often ride the Davis Bike Loop as a family, finding new paths to ride, and stopping along the way to grab a bagel or other snack. Even Joe’s grandfather is a member of a bike club and gets great enjoyment from tinkering with bicycles. For Joe, cycling is a family affair and something that’s an integral part of his life.
While the pandemic dragged on, biking provided an outlet that was Covid-friendly. So, when Joe went to school in person for the first time but found himself still craving more interaction with his classmates, he came up with the idea of gathering with them on a weekend day and biking to a local park as a destination. He invited all members of his first-grade class to participate. Bike Club was officially launched!
Biking is a safe, fun way for kids to connect. It provides exercise and a chance to be outdoors, which is so important considering a large portion of kids’ weekdays are spent inside a classroom — or at home staring at a screen during the pandemic. Biking provides much-needed social interaction with other children, parents, and community members they pass along the way.
In Joe’s Birch Lane Bike Club, families tag along, including parents and siblings, with little ones using training wheels, balance bikes, or being pulled in bike trailers. The group has met monthly for the past year and often numbers ten to twenty people per ride. Ride length varies depending on the location of the park, with some longer rides of up to 6 miles round trip. Once the group reaches the park, the kids play and get to know each other in an unstructured environment. The group hopes to spread the word to other Birch Lane second grade classrooms in the coming year — all are welcome!
Bike Club helps kids improve their bike skills, and over the past year, some kids in the group have graduated from trailers, training wheels, or balance bikes to being on their own two wheels. Bike Club also teaches kids how to be prepared and plan for an event. Joe looks forward to Bike Club, often planning a day in advance. He gets his special Bike Club gear ready, decides which toys to bring for play time at the park, and tests whether they fit on his bike rack. He also selects the destination, thinking about which park to visit.
Speaking of planning, Joe’s mother, Erin, shared that Bike Club wouldn’t be a success without another family from Joe’s class — the Vitanza family. Ashley Vitanza generously coordinates the group by handling communications via text for the parents. “She’s been instrumental in keeping Bike Club going. We’ve become good friends and our husbands have also become friends.” Indeed, Erin Marineau shared that parents of the kids in Bike Club appreciate the chance to get to know other parents and many have forged friendships.
Bike Club provides a built-in form of fresh air and exercise and a chance to engage in social interaction with other kids and parents. Sounds like these Birch Lane kids and their parents are onto something. Kind of makes you want to jump on your bike and join them, doesn’t it? Well, you can! Use Joe’s idea as motivation to start your own bike club. If you need help, contact The Bike Campaign, which can provide bike skills training for kids and parents that may not have had the opportunity to learn to ride, don’t own a bike, or need to improve their skills to feel more confident on two wheels.
How does the founder of the Birch Lane Bike Club feel about this successful endeavor? Joe shared, "I love biking and I love being with my friends, so it's the perfect combo!" Sure, sounds like it. Ride on!
This article was written by Lisa Montanaro, commissioned by The Bike Campaign. For more information about how to “Drive Less. Ride More.”, contact Maria Contreras Tebbutt at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.TheBikeCampaign.com.
Lisa Montanaro is the author of the book The Ultimate Life Organizer and is a freelance writer for print and online publications. She is currently revising her debut novel. When not writing, Lisa helps organizations and people be more productive. And when not working or writing, Lisa can be found on two wheels cycling!