The check is in the mail — Tim Blumenthal signed it Wednesday morning. Ten thousand dollars awarded to Columbia’s PedNet Coalition for its pilot “From Proficiency to Practice” bicycle safety educational program is on its way from the nationwide Bikes Belong Coalition, where Blumenthal is executive director.
The pilot program, scheduled to begin this fall, has three parts: teaching bicycling basics to 600 fourth-graders in Columbia Public Schools, an after-school program in safe bike-handling and bike maintenance, and establishing a Bike Train for children who want to ride their bikes to school.
“In many communities throughout the United States, 20 to 30 percent of morning rush-hour traffic consists of parents driving their children to school,” said Deb Hubsmith, coordinator for Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Hubsmith assisted in writing last year’s federal legislation that provided Columbia and three other cities with more than $20 million each to make their cities safer for bicycle riders and pedestrians.
Walt’s Bicycle, Fitness and Wilderness Co. has pledged an additional $2,000 and employee time to teach bicycle maintenance, said general manager Sarah Ashman.
“Eighty percent of the route (to school) is fine,” said Blumenthal. “But it’s that one busy stretch or difficult street crossing that makes parents nervous.”
The $10,000 comes from a special fund set up by bicycle manufacturers for bicycle-shop employees. When they buy a bike wholesale, workers can make a $20 donation to Bikes Belong’s grant-making fund.
Blumenthal said the award to PedNet was the only one in this grant-making cycle for an educational program. Bikes Belong chose PedNet in part because of its professionalism.
“They’re great at measuring their outcomes, which is important to us,” he said. “... We need to see how behaviors have changed, how many people are continuing to ride and if there’s been a measurable reduction in morning traffic.”
PedNet members Ian Thomas, Fred Schmidt and Robert Johnson will meet Friday evening to plan the program.
“I was really thankful we got the money,” said Johnson. “There’s such a need for the program. I see kids on their bikes running stop signs, riding the wrong way down the street and jumping their bikes from the sidewalk to the street and back to the sidewalk.”