University Laboratory School hosts Safe Routes to School bicycle and pedestrian safety program


LSU University Laboratory School hosted a Safe Routes To School bicycle and pedestrian safety program, known as Cubs Bike Rodeo, with kindergarten through middle school students. Though the program is ongoing, special events took place from Friday, April 11, 2014 and Saturday, April 12, 2014.

Throughout the day Friday, physical education classes with rotations of 52 children met outside for bike safety lessons from Mike Bitton. The lessons utilized 15 bikes and helmets purchased from the SRTS grant and supported the Lab School’s yearly bicycle/pedestrian curriculum, particularly inspired by PE teacher Joanna Faerber.

Divided by grade level, more than 300 elementary students participated.

Mike Bitton, a former LSU bike team member and bike-car accident survivor, spoke to the ULS physical education classes about his experience on the team and passed on words of wisdom to avoid bike accidents.

Several years ago Bitton survived a bike-car accident on River Road only miles from the LSU campus.  After his recovery he now gives talks and educational lessons to elementary kids and up about the importance of bike safety.

“The reason Bitton is a great spokesperson for what we are trying to teach in our unit is because having been on the LSU cycling team, he is an expert,” said ULS Physical Education teacher Carrie Chandler. “To have him come talk about bike safety and specifically wearing a helmet, how to fit it and the importance of wearing it, along with his story shows the kids that even if you might think you can ride a bike well that is not a reason not to wear a helmet. Things can happen out of your control. They are in the age of feeling invincible. We want to break through their invincibility.”

“I think it is great that so many students are aware and fully conscious of using signals, wearing a helmet, and basic safety. They can reiterate information; it is solid in their mind. The teachers have done a great job,” said Bitton. “As a cyclist, this is a great event because it encourages the kids to be on their bikes and learn the basics. They gain the skills they might not realize they don’t know such as stopping quickly.”

The safety blitz concluded with the annual Cubs Bike Rodeo on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in the Faculty Parking lot at the University Laboratory School. The rodeo featured ten stations on bike safety skills. Children, accompanied by an adult, brought a bike, helmet and water bottle. Stations included bike safety checks where helmets, brakes, tires, and seat height are inspected; a turtle race to practice balance; stopping on a dime to demonstrate the importance of quick stops; newspaper toss and making turns to practice hand signals, over the shoulder to scan for traffic, rock dodge to learn avoiding obstacles, and tiny town course where all the skills come together on one course. With Bitton sharing his story in physical education classes the day beforehand, children were especially aware of their own helmet’s importance and excited to have Mike and his triathlete friends assisting them with a helmet fitting. 

“We’ve worked with the kids a lot on introducing safety, making sure to always signal, following rules and laws on the bike and how to check their bikes. They like to come out and learn because they know they get to ride after,” said Scott Menard, physical education teacher in training.

“You start little and then move to the big things, it’s a learning process. We don’t put a kindergartener on a bike that is too big for them, so we have to start with them learning the skills. Scott has done a fabulous job getting them in a safe and comfortable area with training wheels then adding independence with practicing balance,” said Joanna Faerber, ULS Head physical education teacher. “We have had several kids compete in triathlons. We stress that it is okay to compete or just enjoy it for pleasure. If we can’t give them other opportunities, bicycling gets them outside. It’s a double edged benefit for the entire family. The bike rodeo is a way for them to open up.”

Capitol City Cyclery performed thorough bike inspections and conducted on-site small repairs, tuning bikes and making them safer to ride.  Other supporters included cycling advocate, Kellen Gilbert, from Bike Baton Rouge and The Baton Rouge Bike Club.

“It was a beautiful day and another great turnout.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves and had lots of time to ride around and play while honing their bicycle safety skills,” said Jennie Kluse, a ULS SRTS parent volunteer.

School of Kinesiology Associate Professor Alex Garn came with a talented group of LSU kinesiology students to assist running all the activity stations, both teaching the children and, in return, learning from them. 

Alongside the kinesiology students and ULS physical education teachers, volunteer parents, and several of Baton Rouge’s bike community volunteers came out to assist with the Bike Rodeo.

The event displayed the deep commitment to the children, fostering healthy, active lifestyles, and teaching the importance of traffic safety. Next year the Bike Rodeo will grow and become open up to several public and private schools in Baton Rouge, in hopes of creating an annual venue for a Bike Rodeo that teaches school children the value of their health and safety.

Safe Routes to School is a national and international movement to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools. The program has been designed to reverse the decline in children walking and bicycling to schools. Safe Routes to School can also play a critical role in reversing the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.

About SOK
The LSU School of Kinesiology advances the understanding of physical activity, sport, and health to optimize the quality of life for diverse populations through excellence in teaching, learning, discovery, and engagement.

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About University Laboratory School
The University Laboratory School was established by the College of Education, now known as the College of Human Sciences & Education, of Louisiana State University and has operated under its auspices for nearly 100 years. This coeducational school exists as an independent system to provide training opportunities for pre- and in-service teachers and to serve as a demonstration and educational research center. The school is located on the main campus of LSU in Baton Rouge.

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