Many grown-ups have childhood memories, strolling the neighborhood, meeting up with friends and enjoying summer activities by way of bike. Two local groups of girls here in Owensboro will have that experience thanks to community volunteers and an organization called Bicycle Owensboro.
“Bicycle Owensboro became an organization that promoted safe biking, biking awareness and biking pathways in our community. Part of our mission is the education on safe biking,” said board member and volunteer Paula Hayden. “A lot of our board members several years ago went to the League of American Bicyclists and are LCI certified.”
Bicycle Owensboro teamed up with Girls, Inc. to offer this class at the Owensboro Christian Church’s Campus. They ride in local neighborhoods such as nearby Dixiana Drive and over to the shelter at Legion Park, where the class enjoys a snack before returning to campus.
League Cycling Instructors (LCIs) are certified to teach Smart Cycling classes to children, such as the 20 girls from Girls, Inc., participating in this year’s summer classes.
“Some of them have never even ridden a bicycle and some of them have ridden but aren’t really aware of safe biking,” Hayden said. “We teach visibility, stopping and starting, hand signaling and overall confidence to ride a bike safely.”
The classes have gained popularity, as well as support, over the last four years in Owensboro. Hayden and board president Becky Martin hosted the first class with all borrowed bikes, transporting them to the class each week and purchasing helmets for each of the girls participating.
In recent years, they secured a grant from The Paula Nye Memorial Bicyclist and Pedestrian Education Grant fund which gave them the opportunity to purchase 10 bikes in total to host 20 girls over two days each week.
The grant program is funded solely by citizen contributions made by purchasing license plates seen across the community and state known as “Share the Road” with a biker and runner on each plate.
“We’re thankful to the Paula Nye Foundation, Kentucky Bikeways Commission for their support through the years and thanks to Owensboro Health for donating the helmets this year,” Hayden said. “It just keeps getting bigger and better all the time.”
Last year, after having to turn young ladies away due to limited availability, the program has been expanded to host 10 girls during Tuesday’s bike class and 10 girls during Wednesday’s bike class. Tuesday’s group includes all first-time class participants and Wednesday’s group has some girls that have returned for another summer.
“Those that come back every year are showing more confidence and are smoother and more comfortable on the bike,” Hayden said. “It’s exercise, but it is also fun. The comradery that you get with being on a bike and learning these skills together is just amazing. We focus on the importance of safe biking. Simple things like a lot of these girls are riding on the sidewalk and so teaching them to watch for cars backing out of a driveway and teaching them the safest ways to bike are all important.”
The girls always enjoy the last class of the season where it’s an extended class with a bike ride down the Greenbelt to have lunch at Great Harvest and ice cream at Orange Leaf.
“It’s their little graduation so to say,” Hayden said. “It’s amazing how much they learn, and it’s just a great group of young women.”
Those helping with this year’s class that runs from June 2 to the last week of July includes Becky Martin, David Martin, Paula Hayden, Susie Kunze, Martha House, Celeste Lawson, Kay Ewing, Barb Tipmore and Jenny Glaser.
By Angela Mayfield, Owensboro Times