Rock Hill fifth-graders learn responsible cycling

dworthington@heraldonline.comMay 16, 2013 

— Jamie Burton says foremost she is a parent. Then she is advocacy director for the Rock Hill Bicycle Club.

Thursday she combined the two and added teacher to the list – giving students of Richmond Drive Elementary School a lifelong gift.

Burton and Tom Bell worked with group after group of fifth-graders from the school, teaching how to ride correctly and safely.

The students – with helmets – practiced in the infield of the Giordana Velodrome. They first got the feel of the mountain bikes. They progressed to learning how to control the bikes and then got a lesson in how to safely give signals to other cyclists and motorists.

They even got a lesson in physics, learning to understand how shifting the gears affected their ride.

They learned how to slalom between tennis balls cut in half and for the finale, took laps on the track, learning how to safely pass their fellow students.

“It’s fun. It’s like we get to get out of school and play,” said fifth-grader Chris Caldwell.

Getting out to play was one of the goals Thursday. School officials want students to get out and play as one way to combat childhood obesity.

Thursday’s activity, which also included a visit to the nearby Riverwalk park, is a pilot program that could be implemented in other Rock Hill schools.

The event was sponsored by the Rock Hill Bicycle Club, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department and Eat Smart, Move More York County.

“This is the greatest gift in the world,” said Burton. “To give a gift to the kids, to give them the gift of freedom.”

Burton said she understands why many parents don’t want their kids to ride bikes. “There is a bit of fear in letting kids go,” she said.

But with the proper instruction you can give a children the independence that a bike offers, she said.

“Today’s lessons give them confidence and teach them responsibility – that their actions affect the persons behind them,” she said.

An even greater feeling of accomplishment came for Burton and Bell as several of the Richmond Drive Elementary students had never ridden a bike before this week’s program.

“From nothing to riding confidently, that’s pretty amazing,” Burton said.

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Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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