Approximately 90 students took part in one of three two-hour sessions meant to teach bicycle safety in as authentic a simulation of real-life traffic scenarios as the Bike Smart program could devise.
“Every student rides — even if they’re just learning,” said Elise Ehrheart, the program's coordinator. “You really do see a transformation in a lot of students by the end.”
Students participated in hands-on demonstrations of proper helmet technique, traffic rules, signaling, as well as communication with vehicles and other riders — “the more hands-on the better,” Ehrheart said.
At the center of the event, which Ehrheart operated along with volunteers from the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club and the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, was a simulation of an actual traffic intersection — along with simulated obstacles — to put the students' newfound skills to the test.
“When you’re actually at an intersection, a lot of that can go by the wayside,” Ehrheart said. “So we come and we set up an intersection type-situation.”
She said that the program has hosted similar rodeos at schools throughout the Monterey Bay Area, and applauded the enthusiasm that the Scotts Valley Unified School District has had toward encouraging its students to stay healthy.
“There's a little bit of energy there toward getting kids on bikes,” Ehrheart said. “(The schools have been) champions for their students to take on more healthy lifestyles.”
Vine Hill Elementary School Principal Michelle Stewart said that she was impressed by the program and the enthusiasm of the students — particularly with the district's Bike to School Day, which is set for Thursday, May 8.
“I was super impressed with all the tools (Ehrheart) used,” Stewart said. “I think anything we can do (will be helpful).”
She said that she was hopeful that the bike safety training would work together with the new sidewalks being installed along Vine Hill School Road to ensure her students' safety.
The program, Stewart said, would be back in 2015, as well.
“It's not just a one-year program,” she said. “I'm excited that they're going to be having more than one face-to-face interaction with the kids.”