Lanier's Biker Gang

Lanier's Biker Gang

Lanier program teaches bike safety, while getting children active.

Sarah Miller's friends wanted to know why she was having so much fun at school. "They'd ride by and see us and ask, 'How come you guys get to ride bikes?'" said Sarah, a seventh-grader at Lanier Middle School.

Sarah is just one of the students participating in a bike safety pilot program being offered at the school. Pam Clingenpeel, a physical education teacher at Lanier, sought out approximately $6,800 in grant money, which came from the Virginia Departments of Health, Education and Motor Vehicles.

She then attended a course sponsored by the Department of Health and was certified as an instructor. The funds were used to purchase bikes for about $175 each and helmets for $7-$15. She hopes to be able to use the program to offer students at Lanier access to reduced-price helmets.

The program, explained Clingenpeel, has two main goals. One is to teach the children about proper bike handling rules and etiquette. "They've learned that they're basically a vehicle on the road," she said.

Students learned the proper way to size a helmet and how to ensure it is placed on their head correctly, Clingenpeel said.

The students learned proper hand signals for turning and stopping. They also learned the proper way to pass a pedestrian on a trail, by giving verbal signals to the walker or ringing a bell. "We watched a lot of videos," said seventh-grader Neiha Khawar.

They also learned basic bike maintenance and how to fix a popped chain. "We had to learn all the parts of a bike," said seventh-grader Sean Pak.

ALTHOUGH CLASS time is a part of the program, the students generally learn by riding. Courses are set up around the grounds of the school so the children can practice making turns and braking.

The riders slalom around markers and go through a figure eight — complete with the self-made wooshing sound effects that are part of being in seventh grade — then around in a circle and back again to the start. "We learn about the bikes, but it is also fun," Sean said.

The riding gets to what is the larger, second goal for Clingenpeel, to get the students out from behind their video games. "I'm hoping that more of what it's doing is getting them out and physically active," she said.

Some students, she explained, come from backgrounds where they don't know how to ride a bike. "It was starting at the very beginning for a lot of them," she said. "Some kids never rode before, and now they can ride."

Some students are putting these lessons to work, Sarah went for a ride around Burke Lake Park with her family, and another student, Trey Parker, has gone on similar ventures. "I went backwoods riding with my dad," Trey said.