Walking Star Wars characters? A rentable Bike Fleet? Cook County organizations partner with BikeMN to offer free programs to expand awareness of safe and healthy communitiesApr 27, 2023 10:26AM ● By Content Editor
By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - April 27, 2023
If you see characters from Star Wars walking, biking, or skating to Cook County or Great Expectations Schools next week, don’t be alarmed. On Thursday, May 4th, Cook County community members will join people from over 130 schools statewide by celebrating Walk and Bike to School Day.
Normally held on May 3 of each year, Kristina Mattson, Cook County SHIP Coordinator, thought adding an additional element to the day could be a fun twist.
May 4th is often celebrated as Star Wars Day, due to the play on words: “May the 4th be with you”, instead of “May the force be with you”.
But the Star Wars twist isn’t the only bonus Cook County Community members can take advantage of this year surrounding the event.
In addition to dressing in costumes, Cook County SHIP and Cook County Safe Routes to School have partnered with BikeMN to offer three free Walk!Bike!Fun! trainings.
Boreal Community Media talked with Kristina Mattson of Cook County SHIP and Angela Olson of BikeMN to learn more about the trainings, Walk & Bike to School Day, and the rentable Cook County Bike Fleet.
Walk & Bike to School Day
Sharing information about kids walking and biking to school may not seem newsworthy, because it’s something that seems like an everyday occurrence.
However, according to BikeMN, “The number of children that walk or bike to school went from 47.7% in 1970 to 12.7% in 2009”.
This decrease is concerning for many reasons.
Research shows that kids who walk, bike, or roll to school are more focused and ready to learn when they get there. They’re less likely to have behavioral problems and have overall greater academic achievement. Kids are also more likely to gain independence and experience an increase in overall confidence - especially when it comes to navigating around their own community.
It’s not just the kids who benefit from walking, biking, and rolling to school, but the community as a whole.
Overall community-wide benefits include:
Lower carbon footprint due to reduced CO2 emissions and harmful pollutants
Many infrastructure changes made to accommodate walkers and bikers around schools also benefit seniors and those with disabilities
An increase in people walking and biking to school provides an increased sense of security and safety by having more “eyes” around the community
The more drivers get used to walkers and bikers in an area, the higher chance they’ll drive slower and more alert
Reduced traffic crashes: according to MnDOT, schools that teach walking and biking skills see a 49% decrease in pedestrian and bicycle collision rates
So how do we get here?
Well, participating in Bike & Walk to School Day is just one component.
Creating a community of people who are educated on bike and pedestrian safety is another way.
BikeMN, a statewide advocacy and education nonprofit working to make Minnesota a safe place for everyone to bike, walk, and roll, is providing Cook County with those educational opportunities through their “Walk!Bike!Fun! programs.
Angela Olson of BikeMN told Boreal Community Media that “bike and pedestrian education is a vital part of helping youth be active, healthy, and learn how to navigate their neighborhoods and communities safely and with confidence!”
Free trainings open to community members
BikeMN, in partnership with Cook County SHIP and Safe Routes to School are partnering to offer three FREE Walk!Bike!Fun! Programs:
one for educators
one for parents and guardians, teens, and other community members
a family-friendly bike maintenance program
(While each program has a specific focus on who it is for, all trainings are open for anyone who is interested.)
Bike Maintenance Program
This free family-friendly program will teach attendees the 101 on how bikes work, how to make repairs, what tools you may need, and more.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own bikes to practice on if they desire. Children under 12 will be required to have adult supervision during the event.
The training will take place on Saturday, May 6th from 9:00 am - 12:00 pm at the Cook County Community Center. Registration recommended: tinyurl.com/wbfbikefix
The Educator-Training Program
“Our Walk!Bike!Fun! educators program is a FREE comprehensive training program for formal and informal educators to learn how to bring bike and pedestrian lessons to youth grades K-8. Educators will learn the best practices to teach activities pertaining to biking, walking, and rolling, learn about adaptive equipment, and practice hands-on skills to help bring biking and pedestrian safety to their communities and schools,” Olson said.
Educators who participate in the program will receive lunch and 8 CEUs upon completion. Stipends are available for educators.
According to Mattson, “If you are an educator, paraprofessional, parent/guardian or community member interested in taking a deep dive and would like to help take kids out on educational bike rides or help with in-school bike education efforts then the educator training is likely a good fit!”
The training will take place on Thursday, May 4th, from 8:30 am - 4:00 pm at the Cook County Community Center Log Cabin building. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Register: https://tinyurl.com/wbfeducator
The Bike Ambassador Program
The FREE bike ambassador training is for people who are looking to build pedestrian and bike safety skills that can be used their entire lives.
“During this training, participants also more about the Safe Routes to School program, how to lead or volunteer for various organized events and activities such as Walk bike to school day, Bike Safety Rodeos, leading a walking school bus, etc,” Mattson said.
The training will take place on Friday, May 5th from 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm, or Saturday, May 6th from 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm. Both sessions will take place at the Cook County Community Center Log Cabin Building. Register: https://tinyurl.com/wbfambassador
Cook County Safe Routes to School Bike Fleet
Participation in the Bike Ambassador or Educator Training sessions is highly recommended for anyone interested in renting the Cook County chapter of Safe Routes to School Bike Fleet.
“The Safe Routes to School Bike Fleet is a mobile trailer of bikes we purchased through a Safe Routes to School grant. The bikes are adjustable, and we also have several adaptable bikes like a hand pedal bike as part of our fleet,” Mattson shared.
The Bike Fleet can be rented by organizations, non-profits, and schools.
Additionally, the bike fleet has been and continues to be used in bike education for students at Sawtooth Elementary and Great Expectations School, field trips, and during the Walk!Bike!Fun Bike Safety Rodeo hosted at the Cook County Community Center.If you’re interested in learning more about the Bike Fleet, reach out to Kristina Mattson at [email protected]