Remember what it was like when you learned to ride a bike? If you’re old enough, chances are that bike was your ticket out of the driveway, and the freedom to see, do, and explore way beyond your own neighborhood. Riding a bike still holds that power, and Mecklenburg County Parks are the places to flip the switch, as it were, and Learn to Ride!
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation has partnered up with Learn to Ride to make learning this life skill easier and more accessible, by opening up rec center tracks and parking lots to the program all over the county. The free, volunteer-led events teach kids (and grown-ups!) how to ride a bicycle without training wheels; growing Charlotte’s bike community one new rider at a time, and providing a base for a healthy, active lifestyle.
“It’s like learning how to swim,” said Learn to Ride founding partner, Dick Winters. “If you have these skills you have choices of what sort of activities you can participate in – for life.”
“We are about having children and adults experiencing all aspects of recreation,” said Jim Garges, director of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. “Learning to ride a bike is fundamental to that purpose… Teaching children to ride is of course about fun, but it’s also about health and safety. Ride on!!”
Over five unique events this past year alone, Learn to Ride volunteers have taught hundreds of people to ride a bicycle using the “balance bike” method. The partnership with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation means Learn to Ride will be offered in more places, and eventually become part of the programming at some recreation centers.
For the effort, Learn to Ride has been nominated for a 2017 Sustain Charlotte Transportation Award, and Endurance Magazine readers voted Learn to Ride as Charlotte’s “Best Kids Ride.”
“It’s not about the recognition,” said Ben Cooley, owner at Bicycle Sport and program founding partner. “The looks on these parents’ and kids’ faces when they learn to ride a bike – that’s all the reaction you need to keep doing this over and over.”
“When you teach someone to ride a bike you’ve giving them more than just a sense of accomplishment, you change that person’s life,” added long-time volunteer, Stephen Fox. “You’ve given them ability to travel the world, a way to earn a living, a way to stay healthy, and they have entered a community of support. “
Along with Park and Recreation, Learn to Ride is made possible by founders Bicycle Sport, Trips for Kids’ ReCyclery – Charlotte, and well-run media + marketing, in partnership with Mecklenburg County Public Health, Sustain Charlotte, and support from Unknown Bike and Brew and Crank Mafia cycling clubs, and dozens and dozens of volunteers.
Upcoming Learn to Ride dates include:
- March 18th – Hickory Grove Recreation Center
- May 13th – McClintock Middle School
- August 12th – MLK Jr. Middle School
- October 28th – Berewick Recreation Center
Find out more about the Learn to Ride program at www.learntorideCLT.com.