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SF elementary school students gear up for new curriculum with 100 free bicycles, riding lessons

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Dozens of volunteers from the Rotary Club of San Francisco spent Saturday morning assembling 100 bicycles at Bryant Elementary School, which were then gifted to San Francisco elementary school students. Laura Waxmann/S.F. Examiner

Learning how to ride a bicycle could soon become part of the physical education curriculum for San Francisco’s second grade students.

Already, students at three elementary schools are participating in a pilot program that, through lessons and resources, is helping them get behind the wheel safely, school district leaders announced on Saturday.

“We want to give them some foundation [for this] life skill that can be fun, enjoyable and something they can use as a mode of transportation,” said Desirae Feria, physical education supervisor for the San Francisco Unified School District.

The program is the result of a partnership between the district’s Physical Education Department and Sustainability Office, and is being supported by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

As part of the pilot, trailers laden with bicycles are brought different schools on a of 6-8 week rotation, and physical education classes there will incorporate riding lessons and instruction on traffic safety.  

Bryant Elementary School, Spring Valley Elementary School and Argonne Elementary School, are currently piloting the program, which will spread to more schools in the Fall.  The idea is to roll out the program district wide by the 2019-20 school year.

Limited access to bike-friendly paths and parks has created a need for bike education at the grade school level, according to Feria.

“We currently have bike programs at the middle and high school levels…but we are finding that many students just don’t have the skills to ride a bike,” Feria said, pointing to a lack of exposure for some students. “When you live in certain parts of The City, some students don’t have places to ride. You can’t necessarily ride down Fell Street or in downtown.”

The program was announced at a free bike giveaway event held at Bryant Elementary School on Saturday. There, students from four different elementary schools were given the choice of over 100 bicycles varying in size and design, along with colorful helmets and bicycle locks — all donations from the Rotary Club of San Francisco.

“We give them a helmet, a lock, they pick out their bike, and they learn how to lock their bike up,” said John Mathers, the group’s president. “ It’s a wonderful contribution to the neighborhood because it means that people get to spend time with each other.”

Along with the free bikes, a San Francisco police officer briefed the students on bicycle safety and some received their first-ever riding lesson.

“These will be their  first bikes ever. They are very excited and it’s a nice opportunity for us because they are free,” said Roxana Aguilar, a mother of two Marshall Elementary school students. “Believe it or not, we have family members who don’t know how to ride a bike. So for them to learn the rules and how to move around in The City and be safe about it, is important.”

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