Strider Education Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Strider Bikes, a children’s bike manufacturer based in Rapid City, S.D., is working to bring its All Kids Bike program to two West Side schools.  

All Kids Bike supplies the bikes and helps teach kids how to bike in participating schools. The catch is that the schools must come up with an average of $6,000 either out of their own budget or by fundraising. The program helps with the fundraising by setting up a fundraising page and helping the schools promote the initiative. 

This year, West Humboldt Park’s Piccolo School of Excellence, an elementary school at 1040 N. Keeler Ave., has successfully applied for the program while Austin’s Spencer Elementary Technology Academy, 214 N. Lavergne Ave., is currently applying to be part of the All Kids Bike program.

Hugo Rodriguez, Piccolo’s at-risk youth coordinator, said that teaching kids how to bike is especially important for communities of color that have historically been under-resourced.

According to the Strider Foundation press release, All Kids Bike “equips schools with everything they need to teach children how to ride; teacher training and certification, a structured 8-lesson curriculum,” as well as free Strider bikes and bike helmets. The program will continue to offer support to the schools for five years.

Bethany Carbajal, Strider Foundation’s school logistics specialist, said that their goal is to teach as many kindergarteners as possible how to bike, no matter where they live — something that, she said, is more important than ever as fewer and fewer kids are active.

“We’re providing the knowledge and a positive foundation and a life-long skill,” she said. “[Biking] increases strength, independence and even awareness; improves mental and social wellbeing; and increases balance and safety.”

Carbajal said that Piccolo applied on July 18, and Spencer’s application is further down the line. 

Rodriguez said that he reached out to the Strider Foundation, because he wants to get the kids biking. 

“In the communities of color, we don’t have the resources the more affluent schools have,” he added. 

According to the Chicago Public Schools data, Piccolo’s student body is 59.5% Hispanic and 29.6% Black. In addition, 93.4% of all students are low-income and 40% of the students have limited English-language proficiency. Spencer’s student body is 95.4% Black and 2.2% Hispanic.

“In a working-class community of color, where obesity is high and healthy habits are not encouraged, a bike is the smallest gift promoting self-care that an organization can give,” Rodriguez said.

He feels that learning how to bike benefits kids in many ways. Cycling improves their coordination and physical fitness, and expands how far they can travel. The expanded travel, in turn, expands their worldview and the sense of what’s possible, he said. 

“The bike chains are the only chains that can liberate us,” Rodriguez said. “We expect for these bikes to [give] more freedom for students and, hopefully, with this cycling knowledge, they will be able to expand their horizons and explore other places they’ve never been to.”

Carbajal said that the school requested 20 bikes, so they have to raise at least $5,542.52 and they have about a year to raise it. As of Aug. 11, the campaign hasn’t had any donations.

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...