Help Get More Kids on Bikes
By: Nick Aguilera, PeopleForBikes’ youth and community partnerships manager
Applications are open for Outride’s 2023 Riding for Focus program, which provides middle school teachers with everything they need to get students bicycling.
At what age did you learn to ride a bike? How about your classmates? Your coworkers, neighbors, and friends? PeopleForBikes’ 2022 U.S. Bicycling Participation Report found that of the 66% of U.S. adults who did not ride a bicycle in the past year, 14% had never ridden a bike.
“Last year, we measured a gradual but repeated drop in ridership among youth ages 3-17,” says Patrick Hogan, senior research manager at PeopleForBikes, noting that his team is still working to understand why we are seeing this trend. “While about 49% of youth ages 3-17 rode a bicycle at least once in 2022, ridership among younger Americans has continued to drop since 2016.”
This data reflects additional research that shows an average of 10-20% of middle school students did not know how to ride a bike before participating in Riding For Focus — Outride’s middle-school-based bicycle education program.
For those alarmed by the data and anxious to get more kids on bikes, Outride recently opened a new application cycle for more schools to implement Riding For Focus. The program provides schools with everything they need to get their students riding, including helmets, curriculum, teacher training, and a fleet of bikes. It has proven successful in making students feel more comfortable and confident riding. To date, Outride has partnered with more than 225 middle schools to get more kids on bikes around the country.
“Riding for Focus is transformative — not only does it change students' lives through cycling, but it also transforms teachers' lives, school culture, and the surrounding community," says Lauren Freeman, Outride’s Riding For Focus program manager. “Now more than ever, students need access, encouragement, and motivation to develop healthy lifestyle skills. Riding for Focus teaches youth how to take care of their bodies, minds, and hearts via the bike.”
The program has also been monumental in transforming student health outcomes. Participating schools have highlighted positive effects ranging from increased student motivation to improved self-esteem and reduced screen time. What’s more, 87% of students report having fun in the Riding For Focus program — even those who typically do not like school or physical education. Beyond having fun, students speak highly of the socialization, time outdoors, and skill development that accompanies the program. Notably, kids achieve half of their daily recommended activity levels during class.
The success of Riding For Focus highlights the need for standardized cycling education programming, as well as the benefits of making bicycling more accessible in schools. Although the infrastructure, policy, and participation barriers that keep people of all ages from riding bikes are numerous and complex, there’s no doubt that one key piece to reverse declining bike rates amongst kids is to ensure they can ride at school.
Because Riding For Focus covers all associated program costs, schools that serve historically marginalized, under-resourced communities are encouraged to apply. Outride is dedicated to supporting youth of color and youth from low-income communities, those same populations that disproportionately shoulder the record levels of physical and mental health challenges facing youth in the United States.
Visit Outride’s website to learn more about Riding For Focus and apply for the program today. The 2023 Riding For Focus grant application cycle closes on April 28, 2023. Schools that have the funding may purchase the program at any time — contact email@example.com to learn more.