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By Karen Kefauver
June 24, 2011
Link to Sentinel article

Kids and BikesSome of my biggest bicycling fans are under 3 feet tall.

When I ride my bike around downtown Santa Cruz, or even when I walk it, little kids stop and stare at me as if I have just landed from outer space. To them, the two-wheeled mode of transport is a miracle of motion and my bulbous bike helmet is an item of intrigue.

It’s a delight to see toddlers point and gaze in wonder. And it’s fun to watch children learn how to propel themselves on tricycles, then progress to training wheels and finally graduate to bigger bikes.

Ask a group of people and they can probably recall their first bicycles, or at least a few details about learning to ride one.

Since children and bicycles seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s good news that two programs in Santa Cruz County are making strides in getting kids of various ages on bicycles and teaching them how to ride safely.

One program debuting in Santa Cruz this summer is Trips for Kids [www.tripsforkids.org]. Spearheaded by local attorney Allison Cruz and backed by Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, the local chapter is part of the national organization. The group’s mission is to provide mountain biking opportunities for kids ages 12-18 who may not otherwise get the chance to ride on trails.

“We’ll be working closely with our local probation department and child abuse system to serve the most at-risk youth in our county,” Cruz said.

Cruz is still seeking volunteers, who will receive training, to go on trips with the kids. The first outing is slated for Sunday.

Dan Abernethy, a member of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, said he volunteers with Trips for Kids because biking kept him out of trouble as a kid.

“I’m building relationships with local parents and have been gathering insights,” Abernethy said. “I grew up an at-risk youth in East San Jose and luckily, through BMX and the bicycle, I was able to avoid the pitfalls of gangs and violence. I’m so glad to participate here in Santa Cruz with Trips for Kids.”

Another Santa Cruz nonprofit organization, Project Bike Trip, aims to not only teach middle school students about bicycle safety, but also to prepare older kids for potential careers in the bicycle industry. Founded in 2008 by Berri Michel, the owner of local bike store Bicycle Trip, and former Bicycle Trip employee Julie Mitchell, Project Bike Trip’s programs serve more than 150 students annually, including many at-risk youth.

The project’s primary programs run concurrently with the school year and include “Bike Tech at School,” a one-year bicycle shop class for high school students, and “Bike Club at School,” an introduction for middle school students to the bicycle as a mode of transportation, recreation, and health. The programs have been hosted by Aptos, Harbor, Pajaro Valley and Natural Bridges high schools and Branciforte and Mission Hill middle schools.

“What’s great about Project Bike Trip is it’s a start in getting mainstream education to recognize bicycling as something other than just alternative transportation,” said David Giannini, an avid Santa Cruz cyclist and president of the board of directors for Project Bike Trip. “It’s really a great thing for kids because it gives them an introduction to the bicycling industry. In this county, we have so many great cycling companies that we get to take the kids on tours where they learn about marketing, sales, manufacturing and sourcing along with being trained on bicycle mechanics and the technology of bikes.”

To support these programs, and the cycling community as a whole, consider taking in one these film fundraisers.

The movie “3-Minute Gaps” will premiere tonight at 7 at the Rio Theatre. For two years, a film crew followed mountain bike racers around the globe, documenting them as they trained, prepared, rode, ate, traveled, raced, celebrated, commiserated and made sacrifices in their quest to be the fastest in the world. The film chronicles the new breed of racers who are re-shaping modern downhill racing.

Tickets are $5 at the door. Visit www.3minutegaps.com/media.html for further details.

On July 15, the second annual Clips of Faith will feature a compilation of independent films about bikes, beer and sustainability. The screening, co-hosted by hosted by Project Bike Trip and New Belgium Brewing Company, will take place outside at the Wrigley Building Parking Lot [at Western Drive and Mission Street]. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and admission is free. Visit www.projectbiketrip.org for more information.

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