The Kootenays are known for their bicycle culture, with countless trails and paths dedicated to the sport, and widespread cycling on the streets of the region’s urban centres.
And now plans are in high gear to introduce a program into Cranbrook and Kimberley schools, to support that cycling culture and to help kids tap into it.
Cycling BC, in conjunction with Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club, the Kootenay Freewheelers and the Wildhorse Cycling Club, is working with local schools to establish the iRide program, a Cycling BC program that teaches cycling skills and basic knowledge to kids and encourages them get involved in the sport and to cycle for health and fitness and as a social activity.
John Mandryk, local cycling coach, says the goal is to establish an annual program for Grade 4 students and some Grade 3 students.
“There will be kids who will take to the sport, and will grow into it and grow up with it,” he said. “It’s a life sport, one you can do all your life.”
Mandryk said the proposed program has had a good response from most elementary schools in Cranbrook and Kimberley, and School District 5 has also shown great interest.
The iRide program will teach kids basic skills — bike handling and manoeuvrability, safety, mount/dismount, start/stop, scan and signal and rules of the road. Armed with this knowledge and these skills, kids will be set to hit the endless kilometres of bike facilities — including the North Star Rails to Trails, the centrepiece trail in the area.
“The theme of Rails to Trails is ‘connecting communities,'” Mandryk said. “This [iRide]is part of that.”
First off, coaches are needed. Cycling BC is offering a two-day NCCP and iRide coaching clinic in Cranbrook on April 2 (8 a.m) and 3 (5 p.m.), at Gordon Terrace School to certify coaches to help introduce the iRide program in the schools.
“You don’t need a wealth of knowledge to become a coach,” Mandryk said. “Some passion for the sport would be good.”
The iRide program involves four hours of in-school instruction. Coaches also get paid for their efforts.
The students will use their own bikes for the in-school sessions. But since all students don’t have bicycles, organizers are looking for donations. If you have a bicycle you can donate, call Melanie McFarlane at 250-489-9101, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As well, an exciting event is planned for the spring — a Kids’ Fondo, set for May 29. This is the same event as the kids fondo that was part of the Kootenay Gran Fondo in September. But it has been drawn out into its own separate ride. Organizers hope to make it an annual event.
For more information on the iRide program, and/or becoming a certified coach for the program, contact John Mandryk in Cranbrook (250-489-0658, email@example.com), or Jodi Hawley in Kimberley (Jodi.firstname.lastname@example.org).