Thu, Feb. 27

Cyclists share knowledge with students<br><i>Bicycle education program part of spring break</i><br>

Staff photo by Philip Wright

Young cyclists follow each other through an obstacle course during the second day of a weeklong bike-education class at Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School. The program, part of the school's spring break Discovery Program, was put on by members of the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition.

The bicycle education program, held March 15-19 from noon until 3 p.m., is part of the Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School's Discovery Connection. The program was designed and conducted by members of the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition.

Ian Wickson, VVCC education director, said education is one of the top priorities of the newly formed cycle coalition. "Our primary mission is educating both cyclists and motorists," he said. "The best way is to start teaching kids."

And that is how some of the coalition's members spent the past week, teaching kids bicycle safety and bicycle skills. During the five-day program, the kids, mostly in kindergarten through third grade, were introduced to basic safety, rules of the road, bike handling and bike maintenance. On Thursday, the coalition members took the young cyclists to Deadhorse Ranch State Park to ride on the streets and try their young hands at some actual trail maintenance.

This has been the first such education program put on by the coalition, but Wickson said the group is planning to make it a regular part of its activities.

"Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District is interested in a program," Wickson said. He said the coalition is pushing to have bike education added to the district's curriculum. He explained that cyclists in Arizona are subject to the same rules and regulations as motorists. Wickson said if you teach these rules and skills to young children it just might make them better drivers later on.

Prior to Thursday's activities, Wickson said the program at Clarkdale-Jerome has gone very well. "We could use a bit more time with the kids," he said. "But overall, I'm very happy with the program."

He said several parents have commented that their kids learned much more in the program than they had initially expected.

"My hat is off to Clarkdale-Jerome for recognizing the importance of bicycle education," Wickson said.

The coalition formed in January and has applied for status as a tax-exempt, non-profit. Wickson said the organization already has 150 members. A lifetime membership is free and those members receive e-mail from the coalition.

Wickson said the coalition will soon have dues-paying members, which will be needed for the organization to continue to grow and be active.

Randy Victory, a ranger at Deadhorse Ranch State Park, is the president of the coalition. Wickson credits Victory as being the founder of the group. "Randy has been talking to people and putting names on the e-mail list for over a year," Wickson said.

Anyone interested in learning more about the coalition may go to its Web Site: Victory may be reached at 301-1190.

Wickson said the coalition conducts two bike rides each weekend. One is a road trip and the other is a trail ride. Safe bikes and helmets are required, but the rides are open to the public. Information about the rides may be found on the Internet.

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