4 min read
Bicycles

Live Well Alabama table at a Bike RodeoAUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Bringing the family down to the rodeo meant something a bit different in a few counties throughout Alabama this past summer. Alabama Cooperative Extension System SNAP-Ed educators in Jefferson, Calhoun and Barbour counties hosted bike rodeos to promote physical activity, bicycle safety and loads of fun.

Jefferson County

Desiree Hutcherson-Bates, a SNAP-Ed educator in Jefferson County, hosted a bike rodeo at C.J. Donald Elementary School this past June. Hutcherson-Bates typically teaches Body Quest classes at the school. Body Quest is a SNAP-Ed program aimed at combating childhood obesity in third-grade classrooms.

Through her partnership with the United Way of Central Alabama, Hutcherson-Bates was inspired to find a way to leverage Birmingham’s recent bike lanes and community biking trails into a way to engage children into riding bikes. The rodeo–which took place during a summer camp at the school–had multiple goals. These included teaching young people how to ride bikes, being physically active and hosting an educational event outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a great outdoor activity that the kids can participate in,” Hutcherson-Bates said. “It also benefits everybody from just being outside.”

The rodeo had approximately 30 participants. The United Way provided the bikes, and the Children’s Hospital of Alabama donated helmets for the rides.

Calhoun County

Tammy Hall, a SNAP-Ed educator in Calhoun County, coordinated her bike rodeo this past summer with the City of Anniston, the Wiggins Community Center and a few community partners.

Hall is already involved in teaching various nutrition and physical education programs–such as Eat Better, Move More and CATCH–at the community center. These programs encourage children to eat healthier, move more and introduces them to healthier foods. Additionally, Hall teams with the community center and the city for a bike club. Through this club, children can ride donated bicycles on a walking trail near the center’s property.

This past summer, Anniston started a Fourth Friday Fair where residents could venture downtown for music, food and local vendors. The city asked Wigs Wheels, a bicycle shop in Anniston, to host a bike rodeo, who asked Hall to help.

“I was more than happy to help with the rodeo,” Hall said. “It made all the hard work worth it when one little girl looked up at me and said, ‘This is the best bike rodeo ever!’”

At the Event

The focus of the rodeo was to teach children how to ride a bike, emphasize bicycle safety and to have fun. The rodeo included an obstacle course for children to practice their biking skills. The course had rumble strips, cornering skills and a stop sign. It also taught use of hand signals and how to avoid roadkill.

Hall said the Anniston Police Department was even on-hand to teach the children about the proper use of hand signals while riding in traffic. The community center provided bikes for all children. The local high school attended to teach about proper bike maintenance and choosing the best fit for a helmet.

“From 6 to 9 p.m., kids never stopped going through the rodeo,” Hall said. “It was a great time, and I can’t wait to do it again.”

Barbour County

Michelle Puckett, SNAP-Ed educator in Barbour County, partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lake Eufaula to launch a bike rodeo.

Puckett said during the COVID-19 pandemic, she noticed an uptick of children riding bikes in the neighborhood. She said bikes were on the sidewalks and in the streets. She felt it was a good idea to host the rodeo to teach bicycle safety.

“The biggest goal was to get those kids helmets that fit and teach them about basic bike safety rules,” Puckett said. “We definitely want them to ride their bikes as much as they want, but we also want them to be safe.”

Once the word of the rodeo reached the community, Puckett said the Barbour County Extension office received more than 50 donated helmets for local children.

During the rodeo, the Extension office hosted the rodeo, providing multiple stations for biking education. Puckett said the children had to bring their own bikes. However, their bikes were inspected to ensure they were in good working order.

Additionally, Puckett said every child who needed a helmet got a free helmet that was fitted for them specifically. The children learned to stop and start property and to be more aware of their surroundings while riding.

Benefits of Biking

Riding a bicycle is a low-impact exercise that is easy on weight-bearing joints such as hips, knees and feet. Those recovering from an injury may also turn to cycling. It can be a great way to start adding activity back into a routine without adding stress to the injury.

While cycling is easy for joints and a great physical activity choice, the health benefits it provides are also apparent. Pushing the pedals on a bike can improve heart and lung health, build muscle and burn fat. Additionally, regular bike riding may benefit mental health conditions, such as depression, stress and anxiety. This act releases endorphins which may help boost a person’s mood.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that regular physical activity can help protect from obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis.

Family Activity

An added bonus for cycling is that it can serve as a family activity. Going for a ride around the neighborhood or on a local trail is a great way to spend family time. It will also help families meet their daily physical activity recommendations.

For more information about physical activity, visit www.LiveWellAlabama.com, or like and follow Live Well Alabama on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

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