Partnering with Friends of the Children

Gregg Lavender is an old friend of the BTA and is out there working hard to make sure all the kids he works with get bike safety education.  

Enjoy this story from him about teaching this summer at Friends of the Children.


Many of us can’t remember a time when we didn’t know how to ride a bike.

We grew up riding with our friends to parks and swimming pools, daring each other to go faster or to ride with no hands. Before we had cars, or were old enough to ride the bus by ourselves, bicycles gave us the freedom to explore our world.

A lot of the kids at Friends of the Children (FOTC) have never experienced that freedom.

Thanks to a partnership with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), however, this summer more than 30 FOTC kids had the chance to get out and explore Portland on two wheels. The BTA loaned 15 bicycles to FOTC for its Bicycle Safety Camps.

FOTC also added a few bicycles to the lot and took students out on adventures around the city of Portland. There were 16 3rd-6th graders in the Beginning Bicycle Safety Camp and 15 5th-8th graders in the Intermediate Bicycle Safety Camp. All of the kids in the Intermediate BSC attended the Beginning BSC in the summer of 2011.

Most of the kids who participated in the beginning camp do not have a bicycle available for them to use at their home. Of the kids that do have access to a bicycle, most often that bicycle doesn’t have gears or working brakes.

On the first day of camp, kids played games, learned names, learned about bicycle laws, fitting a bicycle, fitting a helmet, lane positioning, making left hand turns, and so much more.

The emphasis was on building friendships first, and riding bikes second.

Campers rode a 2 1/2 mile loop and stopped in Irving Park to play on the playground, and throw the football and Frisbees around. This was the longest bicycle trip that most of the kids had ever taken in their lives.

Over the next three days, campers went on several 6-12 mile bike rides to Peninsula Park Pool, the Skidmore Bluffs, the Washington Park Rose Gardens, and many other places.

The kids couldn’t believe that they could get to so many places on their bikes by their own power.

Kids learned to row with US Rowing on the Willamette River, they saw a ballet demonstration at Director Park, and they brought their bikes on MAX up to the zoo.

Over and over again kids could be heard yelling out, “I know where we are, I’ve been here before. I didn’t know that I could get here by bike!”

One of the most incredible feelings for me was watching 16 beginning cyclists (some of whom have extreme difficulty focusing on a task for more than 30 seconds) all able to communicate with each other, and ride safely and predictably in many different neighborhoods and riding conditions.

They used their words to tell pedestrians on the East Bank Esplanade that they were passing on the left, they used their hand signals to communicate with motorists their intention to make turns, and they reminded one another to leave space for car doors while riding downtown.

The two weeks of Bicycle Safety Camp were my favorite two weeks of the summer.

I’m grateful to the staff at Friends of the Children for working together to make this happen for our kids. I’m grateful for the BTA for donating bikes to us again and to US Rowing for taking our youth onto the water.

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