20 students have chance to earn new bikes for riding to school
By Gord Bowes
Hamilton Mountain News (May 15, 2018)
Twenty students at St. Michael’s elementary school are on track to get new bicycles when they graduate.
But first, they have to earn them.
“If they ride them, they’ll earn a brand new bike,” said Mark Chamberlain of the charity Bike for Mike during a presentation last Friday.
“If they don’t ride them, we’ll take them back.”
Chamberlain started Bike for Mike in 2011 after the death of his son Mike, an avid cyclist who had a dream of making Hamilton a more cycle-friendly city. Working with the public and Catholic school boards, the program has handed out 2,400 bikes to children over the last seven years with a goal of ensuring every child in Hamilton has a bike to ride.
At St. Michael’s, the goal is also to promote fitness among students and reduce the number of cars used to drop off and pick up kids at the Hester Street school, said vice principal Joseph Curto.
Students had to lobby their parents, many who had safety concerns, for permission to join the pilot project.
“We want to change the children’s lifestyle and parents’ mindset about safety,” he says.
To help with safety, Alex Ricci of Bike for Mike is going set up safe routes and ride with students to and from school for the first few days.
If students ride these bikes to school 60 times a year, they’ll get a brand new bike at graduation.
Each child gets a helmet and the bikes are equipped with locks, bells, odometers, reflectors and lights.
It’s a pilot project that Chamberlain hopes to expand across the city.
“We’re hoping you become leaders,” Chamberlain told the students.
“If it works here, we’re going to repeat it over and over again.”
Parent Diane Englehardt praised the program for the safety training and promotion of physical fitness.
It also helps families who may not be able to afford to buy a bike for each child.
“Thank you,” she said. “It means a lot to us.”