Blake Miller, left and Trentyn Greening, right, stick their arms out to signal their left turn during a bike safety class at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Blake Miller, left and Trentyn Greening, right, stick their arms out to signal their left turn during a bike safety class at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Darrington PE teacher seeks donations for bike education

Gavin Gladsjo is looking for $6,000 in donations for bike, helmets and lessons for kindergarten through fifth grade.

Penny Ortiz brought her bright pink helmet, with bumps mimicking cat ears, for physical education recently at Darrington Elementary School.

It had been several months since the fifth grade students last spent their physical education class biking until that week in early May.

Bike education had started in the fall, but wildfire smoke pushed them indoors for safety lessons in the gym and classroom. Then winter precluded further riding outside.

On a recent weekday morning, Gavin Gladsjo, one of the small district’s PE teachers, rounded up Kim Wiersma’s 20 or so students for a lesson to practice road safety. Gladsjo unloaded the black-and-orange Specialized city bikes from a trailer just outside the ballfields, each with a taped number so students remember which one fits them best, and had the class run through their ABCs: checking air pressure, brakes and chains.

Students whose rides were ready, rolled through the grass, sometimes narrowly avoiding a slow-speed crash with yells of “Watch out!”

“It’s that first piece of independence that a child gets as they’re growing up, and a lot of kids are missing that now,” Gladsjo said.

A student’s shadow is cast on the ground as they ride their bike during a bike safety class at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A student’s shadow is cast on the ground as they ride their bike during a bike safety class at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The bikes, which fit the 10- and 11-year-olds, aren’t suitable for younger students. Gladsjo hopes to fix that with a fundraiser to buy 24 balance bikes that could adapt to students as they grow and being to use pedals.

The goal is to get $6,000 in donations by next year. For comparison, his annual classroom budget is $250 across all five classes between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Before the pandemic, an estimated 1 million fewer U.S. children regularly biked between 2014 and 2018, according to an industry report cited by The Washington Post.

When the pandemic gripped the country and other forms of entertainment and recreation were restricted, people flocked to biking.

Alison Dewey, education director of The League of American Bicyclists, said biking is a healthy physical activity that also gives children “freedom they deserve.”

“Biking is such a fundamental, easy way of getting places and exploring new areas, even just within your own community,” Dewey said. “It can take you far.”

But fewer children bike to school and in general than prior generations, she said.

Students line up the bikes to check tire air, breaks and chain before starting bike safety class at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Students line up the bikes to check tire air, breaks and chain before starting bike safety class at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

School programs can help bolster that activity, which students can carry skills from forever.

All Kids Bike, the fundraising program Gladsjo is working with, started in 2018 as part of the South Dakota-based Strider Education Foundation created by bike company Strider. Since then, it has put an average of 24 bikes in over 950 schools, foundation school logistics specialist Bethany Carbajal said.

The fundraisers come with the balance bikes, pedal conversion kits, a teacher instructor bike and an eight-lesson curriculum available online.

Teaching students how to bike as early as kindergarten leads to greater likelihood of them riding through their life, Carbajal said.

“We found that by teaching students at that beginning level, kindergartners, they’re very much open and willing to learn as a group,” she said.

More schools are offering bike education as part of physical education, Dewey said. It’s part of the curriculum for second graders in the Washington, D.C. public school system, which she considered a role model for bike education.

Students ride around on their bikes before the start of bike safety class at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Students ride around on their bikes before the start of bike safety class at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

From there, the League hopes children consider biking for more kinds of trips as they age.

“We want to see them equipped with that knowledge of what it means to ride safely and just knowing how to ride a bike,” Dewey said.

Ortiz, one of the Darrington fifth grade students, has her own bike but doesn’t use it to get to school. Gladsjo said he’s seen maybe six bikes regularly at the school’s rack.

But he knows children bike around town, and they’re likely to bike in other areas with busier roads and trails. That’s why he wants to ensure they know how to ride safely and signal properly.

A 2014 study found students rarely biked or walked to school at most elementary, middle and high schools, largely because of the distance and safety concerns.

Programs like the state’s Safe Routes to School can help governments build bike lanes and sidewalks, as well as other pedestrian safety near schools. Those investments are equally important to education, Dewey said.

A student rides down a road during a bike safety exercise at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A student rides down a road during a bike safety exercise at Darrington Elementary School on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Darrington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“Parents have to feel safe themselves riding in their community to even think about sending their kids out to ride a bike,” she said. “We so often just prioritize cars, and that’s not a very fun place to be when you’re on a bike.”

For Darrington’s kindergartners, the first step toward bike safety could mean balance lessons on donated bikes and wearing donated helmets next year.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Everett
Everett courthouse garage briefly closed for ‘suspicious package’ report

A man drove his car into the Snohomish County Courthouse garage and reported he believed the package was in his car.

High-capacity magazines at The Freedom Shoppe gun store, which was holding a sale in anticipation of new gun control measures, in New Milford, Conn., April 2, 2013. The store is liquidating their stock of weapons expected to be banned. Months after the massacre of 26 people at a school in Newtown, Conn., legislative leaders in the state on Monday announced what they called the most far-reaching gun-legislation package in the country. (Wendy Carlson/The New York Times)
WA high court leaves ban in place for now on high-capacity ammo magazines

Monday’s decision will keep the law in effect until the court hears arguments, possibly this fall, on the bill sponsored by an Edmonds senator.

Firefighters respond to a 911 call Tuesday morning in Mill Creek. (Photo provided by South County Fire)
Mill Creek house fire displaces 3

Firefighters responded to a house fire in the 14100 block of 30th Avenue SE early Tuesday morning. No one was injured.

Alyvia Nguyen, 8, climbs on leaf shaped steps at the new Corcoran Memorial Park playground on Friday, July 12, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Bothell-area park ‘could not be a more fitting dedication’

In 2019, Jim Corcoran donated $1.5 million worth of land to become a public park. He died before he could see it completed.

Cars line up for the Edmonds ferry in Edmonds, Washington on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ferry line jumpers face a $145 fine — and scorn from other drivers

Law enforcement is on the lookout for line cutters. It’s a “hot-button issue that can lead to something worse.”

Mother charged in Stanwood toddler’s fentanyl overdose death

Morgan Bassett woke up in January 2022 and found her daughter wasn’t breathing. Last week, she was charged with manslaughter.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.