London

Ride to Thrive program aims to bring safe cycling to all London schoolkids

A made-in-London program aims to teach kids in Grade 5 and 6 how to ride a bike safely on the road, a way to make children feel confident about riding around on two wheels.

The program focuses on teaching kids in Grade 5 and 6 to ride safely on the road

Elementary students learn all about cycling safety at school

1 month ago
Duration 0:29
A made-in-London program aims to teach kids in Grade 5 and 6 how to ride a bike safely on the road, a way to make children feel confident about riding around on two wheels.

Kunwar Singh says riding a bike gives him freedom to quickly get where he wants to go — usually somewhere in his neighbourhood to hang out with friends. 

Handling yourself on two wheels is also a good survival skill, according to the 10-year-old Grade 5 student at Sir Arthur Currie Public School in northwest London. He has advice for youngsters worried about getting out on a bike for the first time: "If you feel in your head that you're successful, and you keep repeating that in your head, it actually works to make you successful." 

Singh was one of several students last week to complete the Ride to Thrive program, which always culminates in a bike ride on nearby streets with volunteer instructors to make sure everything goes smoothly. 

"It's really fun," Singh said. "It's like an extra recess, in my opinion."

A young woman surrounded by bikes.
Molly Miksa is the executive director of London Cycle Link, which runs the Ride to Thrive program. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

The program is run by London Cycle Link, a non-profit that aims to get more Londoners cycling. Students are encouraged to bring their own bikes for the duration of the program, but those who can't or don't have one get a bike from the Big Bike Giveaway. Kids also get a helmet. 

"We start by talking about the reasons that you would want to ride a bike, talk about where the students are in terms of their skill level, the rules of the road, the requirements for your bike, such as a bell, brakes, a light at night," said Cycle Link executive director Molly Miksa. 

Riding to school the goal

"We get the kids to fix a flat tire with a friend, and have a bike rodeo day where they go through different stations testing their bike-handling skills, signaling, going through pretend intersections on their bikes."

The final day includes a ride through the school's neighbourhood, on the street, with instructors who help kids along, making sure they know how to signal, navigate intersections, roundabouts, and cars parked on the street. 

"We want some of these kids to actually start riding their bike to and from school," Miksa said.  

Ride to Thrive launched in 2021. The hope is to provide cycling education to all kids in Grade 5 and 6 in the London area, she added. 

A girl on a bike. She is 10.
Lamar Binsunker, 10, has started biking to school because it's fast and good for the environment. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

The week has inspired Lamar Binsunker, 10. Usually, she takes the bus to school, but this week has been making the ride on two wheels — and she says it only takes four minutes. 

"I like it because it helps the environment," she said. "Usually I ride a lot in the summer. I don't like doing tricks on my bike but I like riding places." 

Paxton Potter, 10, does like doing tricks. He also loves the freedom that goes with having a bike and being able to go to see friends in the neighbourhood, he said. 

An 11 year old boy on a bike with a mohawk helmet
Paxton Potter, 11, loves doing tricks on his bike and says cycling gives him freedom to explore his neighbourhood. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

"I get to go places I wouldn't because I don't have my driver's license yet," he said. "I get to go places fast." 

There's been an uptick in bike riding to school since the program started, said Caroline Woodburn, the principal at Sir Arthur Currie. 

A woman in pink surrounded by small children's bikes.
Caroline Woodburn is the principal of Sir Arthur Currie Public School in northwest London. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

"It really focuses on the children being active and engaged and outside in the fresh air," she said. "It gives them a chance to get outside, get some physical activity, move about and be with their friends. We're seeing lots of smiles and lots of engagement." 

Kids are eager to get out into the neighbourhood to ride their bikes, Woodburn said. 

For Singh, the week was extra special because Cycle Link volunteers were able to secure a special helmet that fits around his patka, the cloth he uses to cover his hair in public as part of his religion. "If I was wearing a normal helmet then it wouldn't properly fit me," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Dubinski

Reporter/Editor

Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at kate.dubinski@cbc.ca.