Pilot program to educate more than 500 children this fall
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has developed a new program called Rhode to Bicycle Safety, which teaches elementary school-age children valuable skills for safe bike riding. Today RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. visited William D'Abate Elementary School in Providence as students finished up four days of training with a "bike rodeo" to practice their skills navigating a mock street with intersections and stop signs, set up in the school playground.
"Safety is at the core of everything we do here at RIDOT," Director Alviti said. "We're excited about this new program and our role to equip children with the knowledge and skills that will help them bike safely."
"In Providence, we believe that every street should be safe, clean and inclusive," said Mayor Jorge Elorza. "This new program will support this mission and expand bike safety education while offering an interactive learning opportunity for our students."
"We thank RIDOT for selecting D'Abate Elementary to participate in the new Rhode to Bicycle Safety program," Principal Brent E. Kermen said. "This partnership allows us to achieve two goals; promote a healthy lifestyle by riding bicycles and enhance student safety in the community. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and their families."
The Department is running the program at three schools this fall, reaching more than 500 fourth and fifth graders. The effort started at Forest Park Elementary School in North Kingstown last month and will finish later this month at Hampden Meadows Elementary School in Barrington. RIDOT intends to expand this program in 2020 to many other schools across Rhode Island.
The program features a comprehensive curriculum developed from best practices used by successful bike safety programs run by DOTs across the country and one of the oldest and largest cycling organizations in the country, the League of American Bicyclists. Topics covered include understanding the rules of the road for cyclists, the importance of wearing helmets, how to safely navigate intersections and understand street signage, how to avoid hazards, and understanding how bikes work and checking that your bike is safe to ride.
The course takes place over four, one-hour classes for each student and features a mixture of activities to help teach the students in a fun and engaging way. RIDOT provides the instructors, bikes and helmets, and all other equipment at no cost to participating schools. The program also includes options for students who have never ridden a bike, using "balance bicycles" with no pedals so they can move the bikes forward with their feet and work on balance.
RIDOT funded the program using a mix of state ($20,000) and federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ($80,000) dollars to buy the bikes and develop the program. The bikes were provided through a grant awarded last year to the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council's Red Shed bike program. That agreement makes bikes available for the Rhode to Bicycle Safety program as well as many other programs the Council runs for bike safety including bike camps and after school programs.