Rocky River Middle School principal Sam Gifford and his staff are ready to be “roll” models for their students during the first annual Rocky River Bike to School Challenge.
“Most of us are planning to bike to school, and some have quite a ride,” Gifford recently told West Life, adding that sixth-grade social studies teacher Jeff Smith has an 18-mile trek. Gifford, however, gets a break. “I only live about two streets away, so that’s about 1,000 yards,” he revealed.
The three-week bike challenge, sponsored by Century Cycles and Fuel Up to Play 60, a nationwide movement focused on fighting childhood obesity, was set in motion last week with a bike safety fair at the middle school. Free safety inspections, free bike licenses provided by Rocky River police, rider safety information and a giveaway of 20 helmets were featured.
“The 20 helmets were gone by 7 (p.m.),” said Tracey Bradnan of Century Cycles, noting the line started forming well before the doors to the school gym opened at 6:30 p.m. She said that about 60 cycles, belonging to adults as well as children, were given a once-over by mechanics. Also on hand were representatives from University Hospital’s Rainbow Injury Prevention Center, who provided a game, stressing the importance of bike helmets. Students put on “fatal vision” goggles, which distorted their sight, and tried to throw a corn hole bag. “This shows the tangible consequences of not wearing a helmet,” Bradnan explained.
It was physical education teacher and Bay Village resident Wendy Crites who initially pedaled the idea of the Bike Challenge, which is modeled after a program kicking off its fourth year in that city. “I was so blown away by the response that I have been begging Century Cycles for two years to start a program here,” said Crites, who has a daughter attending Bay Middle School. “Scott (Cowan, owner) finally said they had a handle on the Bay program and were ready to start one here,” she said.
Crites and Gifford predicted a good turnout on Monday, the first day of the challenge, and bikes overflowed from racks, were chained to fences and parts of the middle school building. Crites explained that incentives are provided throughout the three weeks, with the kick-off featuring Chipotle gift cards. She explained participating students are given cards that are stamped each day they use pedal power. An extra stamp is awarded for wearing a helmet. After four rides to school, the card is filled and entered into a drawing for grand prizes at the end of May. The more a student rides, the more cards are accumulated, and the better their chance to win.
Other goodies such as T-shirts and gift cards for Honey Hut Ice Cream and bowling will be sprinkled throughout the challenge. Crites said that grand prizes will include new bikes, Cedar Point tickets, Indians tickets and city pool passes.
Gifford said that the goal is to get as many of the school’s 600 students involved as possible, and arrangements will be made to provide bikes for students who do not own one, and for special needs students. He has offered to ride a tandem bike with those who cannot ride alone.
Both Gifford and Crites agreed that the enthusiasm for the program is in high gear. “Even folks who I didn’t expect said that they couldn’t wait,” Gifford said.