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On a sunny, spring day, a group of children, four to seven-years-old, sit on their bicycles. They wear helmets to protect their heads and gloves to protect their hands. Their mothers, standing nearby, watch them closely. The children are ready to learn how to ride.
Rachel Varn still remembers how she felt riding a bicycle for the first time. She says, “It’s probably the biggest confidence booster. It gives kids such a sense of independence and agency.”
Now, her job is helping children experience that moment.
Rachel Varn left her job of selling bicycles to become a trainer for bicycle riding last year. She founded Pedal Power Kids to teach bicycle education.
Before starting a ride, she teaches the children how to make sure the bicycles are in good condition for safe use. She calls it “the ABC quick check.”
“A” is for air, she explains. “We have to check our tires before we ride. B is for brakes. We want to make sure our brakes work before we find ourselves on the top of a hill about to go down. And C is for chain.” She says the chain must be clean.
The rest of the training is more fun. The children learn riding skills, from balance and pedaling to turning, starting and stopping. And they learn to keep their eyes up and look ahead while riding.
Varn says many children struggle to do this. They look down at the pedals instead.
She adds, “Obviously that doesn’t allow them to see what’s going on around them, and it also doesn’t allow them to turn properly.”
Varn says watching where you are going helps you turn easier.
Learning to ride a bicycle can open a whole new world to children. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and freedom. They become more sensitive to their surroundings and better able to make safe, smart decisions going from one place to another.
Varn’s goal is to get more children on two wheels. She says, “That’s really a great way for kids to be active and develop healthy habits. It helps reduce pollution and just keep families and communities connected.”
Since starting Pedal Power Kids last year, Varn has helped around 250 new riders.
Julia Roeling had neither the time nor the confidence to teach her children how to ride. She signed up two of her three children in Van’s bicycling class.
Varn gets the kids moving, Roeling says. “Now, they can do it safely. And they know how to get around the community and stop at the stop signs and be together on their bikes.”
Roeling says riding bicycles is a great activity for children. They spend the time outside instead of playing video games all day.
The children in the classes are happy and excited about their experiences. They have fun riding with their friends. They give names to their bikes. And they enjoy doing the ABC quick check for safety.
Varn observes, “We probably won't be playing lacrosse when we're 75 or 89, but we certainly can be riding a bike!”