Posts Tagged ‘Cycling’

Bike Clark County Needs Your Help

May 1, 2014

Bike Clark CountyEric GiacchinoSeveral months ago, I wrote about Bike Clark County–a local non-profit dedicated to “giving kids the skills to safely and responsibly use their bike as an affordable and eco friendly mode of transportation.”  Since writing that historic (I’m always one for the dramatic) post, I have had the opportunity to meet with Bike Clark County President, Eric Giacchino, and other Bike Clark County volunteers on several occasions. Each time, I have been more and more impressed with the organization and what it stands for.  Bike Clark County continues to grow and spread cycling safety to the next generation of riders. It continues to advocate for bicycle safety in our communities.

This summer, Bike Clark County needs your help.

One of Bike Clark County’s annual projects is the Safe Routes to School – Bicycle Safety Programs. These run May 19 through June 17.  Bike Clark County needs volunteers to work with local schools and teachers to provide bicycle handling and safety skills to middle school students in Clark County. The Safe Routes to School program is a national program that was developed by the League of American Bicyclists and is designed to help develop knowledge and expertise in bicycling through their Traffic Skills 101 program.

Vancouver and Evergreen School Districts have been teaching the Safe Routes to School curriculum for over 10 years. The flagship programs are taught at Mcloughlin Middle School and Wy’east Middle School. Discovery Middle School started running the program in 2013. There is now an after school version of the program taught by Bike Clark County volunteers at Hough Elementary School.

The program is focused on teaching basic bicycle safety checks, helmet fitting and proper attire, basic bicycle handling skills, and rules of the road and proper hand signals. The course has both classroom instructional and riding components. The riding portions start in a “traffic free” environment, such as on-campus and parking lot riding.  After basic skills and traffic laws are mastered, an on-road component is initiated.

So where do you come in?

Safe RoutesVolunteers are most needed during the helmet fitting and riding phases, in particular for the on-road components. The school teachers handle the majority of the instruction and discipline, so Bike Clark County volunteers get to focus on encouraging kids, providing additional oversight, minor bicycle maintenance assistance, and helping guide on-street rides.  We really encourage parents of students in each school to get involved and volunteer. The rapport parents have with students is a positive asset. The key dates for this year’s programs are from May 19-June 17th. Find out more on the Bike Clark County Calendar.

What does it take to volunteer?

To volunteer you will need to:

  1. Complete a Volunteer Application form for each of the school districts you plan to help out with. You can pick up the forms at any school in the district or print out on line.  Forms are dropped off at any school in the district. For Evergreen School District, which covers Wy’east Middle School, click here. For Vancouver School District, which covers Discovery, Hough and Mcloughlin Schools, click here.
  2. Have a safe and functional bicycle and helmet. If you need to have your bicycle checked over first or if you need to borrow one from Bike Clark County, contact us a few weeks in advance of the programs or come to one of our bike repair days.
  3. The Rules of the Road that apply to cars also apply to bicycles. Ensure that you are aware and use safe riding techniques in your own riding to be a good example to the students. As we ride on neighborhood streets, volunteer roles are to help ensure that kids are riding safely, maintaining safe following distances, using hand signals, and following rules of the roads. At intersections, volunteers help ensure kids stop at stop signs, signal and check for traffic, and make safe decisions about when to ride across. We don’t stop traffic for the kids, we want them to learn how to ride in a real-world environment.
  4. Have a positive and encouraging attitude! The teachers do the discipline and maintain classroom order, so our job is to help kids have a fun riding experience.
  5. Mechanical skills are a bonus. Prior to the start of the programs, Bike Clark County Volunteer mechanics give every bicycle a tune up and safety check. To participate – see our calendar update for information. At the start of every class we do a basic “ABC” Safety check to make sure bikes are in adjustment and ready to roll. Beyond that, it is helpful if you know how to fix a flat or adjust a derailleur when we are out on the road – but don’t worry – there is always at least one volunteer with some mechanical skills present.
  6. For the truly committed volunteer, you can get certified as an instructor through the League of American Bicyclists. While not required to help with these programs, it’s a great course packed with good information.  There may be opportunities in our area soon.  For more information and background click here.

Bike Clark County is made up entirely of volunteers. If you’re looking for a way to get involved, this would be a great opportunity.


Who Here Has Heard of “Bike Clark County”?

July 16, 2013


Riding the 2013 Seattle to Portland, or “STP”, this past weekend was one of the most physically and mentally rewarding experiences of my life. It is something I will always remember. During the ride, I realized how much cycling has given to me over the years–good health, physical freedom, release from stress, and personal accomplishment. Even while suffering through those last four miles through Portland, I felt it was time for me to start giving back to the biking community that had given me so much. But where? With who? As I pedaled through the pain, I realized I could not think of a single organization in Vancouver or Clark County committed to biking education and advocacy. Sure, such organizations exist in Portland, Oregon and in Seattle, Washington, but I wanted something smaller. Something local. Something Vancouver.

After my body recovered from the ride and in only a few minutes of internet browsing, I came across a 2011 newspaper article talking about a Vancouver firefighter by the name of Eric Giacchino.  He felt the same bike-safety void in Vancouver as I was feeling. He, however, took the initiative to do something about it. After much work from himself and other volunteers, he created “Bike Clark County“.

Bike Clark County

The organization’s mission:

Through community partnerships and the effort of volunteers, we promote bicycle access, education, safety and the enjoyment of cycling to the children and adults of SW Washington. In simple terms, that translates to getting more people out riding bikes.

Despite my years of riding, how had I not heard about these folks before?  I decided to do my part to spread the word by writing a blog post and sharing about Bike Clark County with my friends and followers.  Bike Clark County offers education classes to Vancouver classrooms, 1-hour commuter workshops to local workplaces, and provide training on bicycle repair; they’ll show you how to do it.  The Board of Directors, made up entirely of community volunteers, includes fire fighters, a County Transportation Planner, a Chief Technology Officer, and a local business owner–all local people interested in making their community a safer place.  All Bike Clark County staff members are also volunteers. The organization supports local community rides like the Gordon Patterson Memorial Bike Ride and Pedalpalooza. All programs are free and made possible through community donations.  They also provide cycling advocacy efforts directed toward helping to make Clark County a bike friendly and safe place to ride and commute.

If you enjoy cycling (or if you get annoyed by irresponsible and reckless cyclists as much as I do), get involved.  Consider volunteering or asking your child’s school or your place of employment to host Bike Clark County Volunteers as they impart their biking wisdom.  It’s only through constant and ongoing education that we can make our communities safer for our children and for all of us cyclists on the roadway.

I love the message on their home page: “Remember the feeling of freedom when you got on your bike? – It never left.”  This message sits next to a picture of a young boy, perhaps 7 years old, who is riding a bike adorned with a hand-drawn face (you have to see it to appreciate it).  The boy reminds me of my eight year old son who loves riding his bike through the neighborhood.  I hope he will forever to do so thanks, in part, to the efforts of Bike Clark County.

Thank you Eric Giacchino for your commitment to make our roads safer and for going the extra mile to help our community in all aspects of your life. You are an example of dedicated service and the pinnacle of what  it means to be from the ‘couve.

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