Not your grandma’s school library
Bike libraries are a hot topic in the bike world. Libraries are popping up at recreation centers, city buildings and community hubs. But what about at elementary schools?
Buena Vista’s bike library
Bicycle Colorado’s education team worked with the town of Buena Vista to develop a bike library at Avery Parsons Elementary School.
The bike library was funded by a Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure grant with the intention of encouraging more families to bike to school—even if students do not own a bike.
Checking out a bike
In Buena Vista, there is a small but mighty Safe Routes to School coalition comprised of school staff, town employees and community members. Together, this group has developed a simple, efficient system for loaning bikes to students.
Families may contact BV REC to schedule a time to check out a bike. Families fill out the checkout form, which includes a release of liability statement. Upon checkout and return, staff assess the function of the bike to identify when bikes need repairs.
Benefits of a bike library
Dave Bott, a fourth grade teacher at Avery Parsons, is the Safe Routes to School community coordinator and one of the driving forces behind the bicycle library. Dave identified perks of housing a bike library on campus:
- Students can immediately start practicing after learning to ride in a physical education class.
- Families may borrow a bike to gauge a child’s interest before purchasing a bike.
- Students may borrow a bike to try out clubs (i.e. mountain biking).
- Bike libraries can increase participation in bike to school day events.
Last week Bicycle Colorado teamed up with Avery Parsons physical education teacher Scott Crites to teach biking and walking safety in physical education classes. During the week, about 15 students learned to ride a bike for the first time. Two of these students were fifth graders, Teddy and Keydon (pictured at right).
After school Friday, I ran into Teddy and his father as they checked out a bike from the library. With a smile on his face, Teddy checked out a bike, helmet and lock to continue riding at home.
Another family also arranged to check out a bike, explaining that their son had refused to touch a bike after he crashed while learning to ride in the past. They were thrilled that he learned how to ride and wanted to practice!
Advice to interested communities
Dave identified key lessons the Safe Routes to School coalition has learned:
- Don’t overthink it. There are a million challenges that may arise. Instead of focusing on what could happen, start with a basic system and establish protocols for challenges as they come.
- Establish a maintenance plan. Purchase bikes from a shop that will provide tune-ups. Identify a community member who can take care of basic maintenance (flat tires, brake alignment, chains, etc.) between tune-ups.
- Advertise the bike library often. Have bikes at school events or pull them out before or after school. Include bike library information in community newsletters.
If your community could benefit from a bike library, please let us know in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.