Is this the busiest year yet for the New Jersey Ambassadors in Motion (NJAIM) program? It sure seems that way, as the ambassadors have been around the state assisting with bicycle rodeos, street safety, and even a bicycle valet! NJAIM, an initiative from the NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center, was created to help spread knowledge about bicycle safety, bicycle laws, basic bicycle maintenance, and more.
Check out the work done earlier this summer, and read on for details on the latest events.
Bradley Elementary School: Asbury Park 5/30/17
The bicycle rodeo at Bradly Elementary School took place on a cloudy day at the end of May, but the clouds and slight rain could not dampen the excitement of the kids who came out for the event or the enthusiasm of the volunteers from NJAIM and EZ Ride. The students went through a safety presentation and helmet fitting before being released outside for the riding portion of the rodeo. After the presentation the students were eager to display their aptitude, enthusiastically displaying their knowledge of signals for turning and stopping and showing off their ability to ride through the figure eight and avoidance drills. Despite the overcast weather the event was well received by the kids and the school and everyone had an enjoyable and informative day.
Hazelwood School Bike Rodeo: Middlesex 6/3/17
The bicycle rodeo held at Hazelwood Elementary School occurred a beautiful day to be outside. Two classes came out to get their helmets and bicycles checked and then to take turns riding through an established course. All of the kids had their own helmets that needed to be correctly fitted to their heads to provide the full safety benefit they could bestow. The bike checks went smoothly, with only a few bicycles needing air in tires and no major issues with any of the bikes. The kids were excited to have the opportunity to ride through the course, displaying their signaling skills and ability to avoid obstacles in their path in the form of sponges. Each group of students was a little sad when their time outside came to an end, but were happy to take a picture with the ambassadors and to receive “Safety First” bracelets and reflective stickers for their bikes and helmets. The students as well as the volunteers learned a great deal about bike safety and the event was an amazing success!
Park Avenue Elementary Bike Rodeo: Freehold 6/5/17
A two day event was planned for Park Avenue Elementary on the 5th and 6th of June, but the second day was rained out. NJAIM and EZ Ride worked with volunteers from a few other organizations to provide a learning opportunity for the students. Before the event could begin a number of donated bikes had to be moved to the rodeo site. After the bicycles had been set up the helmet fitting took place, with ambassadors working one on one with students to ensure helmets were properly worn. The course was established in the large traffic circle at the back of the school generally utilized for bus pick up and drop off. The course included a stop drill near the start with a straight away leading to a roundabout for the children to work on yielding, which proved to be difficult for some students early on in the rodeo. After the roundabout an avoidance area led to a scanning drill. The event enjoyed a bit of extra excitement when a student’s tire popped, splitting the air with a loud crack, requiring a replacement to be found. The students also enjoyed a series of slow races, an activity that requires students to exhibit superb balance and control of their bicycles.
Watchung School: Middlesex 6/7/17
On June 7th NJAIM teamed up with Keep Middlesex Moving to put on the bike rodeo at Watchung School in Middlesex. The road next to the school was closed to traffic for the duration of the event, which provided ample space for drills and maneuvers. Participants in this rodeo were split into 8 groups of about 7 children. They came out in two waves and each of the four ambassadors was in charge of a group. The groups took turns on each of the stations, stopping, turning, avoidance, yielding, and emergency stops. When the first group completed all the stations they moved to the freeride section. Before the students could get out to the stations an extensive helmet fitting had to be carried out, most of the children owned their own helmets, but those often needed to be fitted correctly. Parents and other volunteers with the school worked closely with the ambassadors to manage and keep the kids organized. The exciting and information filled day ended with popsicles for the kids and volunteers to help quell the heat.
Freehold Learning Center: Freehold 6/8/17
The first day of the two-day event at Freehold Learning center had about 30 kids attend. The first activity for the day was the helmet fitting, which required a bit of organization and patience from volunteers and teachers. The local bike mechanic came out with his selection of bikes that could be used by those who did not have a bike of their own. Ambassadors with NJAIM and EZ Ride set up the course with the usual activities; turning drill, scanning drill, figure-eight, and a stopping drill were all present on the course. An additional area was set up for students who needed to learn how to bike; pedals were removed from their bikes so that they could focus on balancing and building confidence. By the end of the day most of those who were just starting had moved to the training course with the rest of the students. It was a great event with students displaying their knowledge of safety procedures while cycling while also providing an enjoyable way for other students to increase their comfort while riding.
Freehold Learning Center Part 2: Freehold 6/9/17
This was the second day in two days NJAIM teamed up with EZ Ride to provide the opportunity for the students of Freehold Learning Center to learn about bike safety and try their skills on a brief course. Much like the previous day the course began with the turning drill and moved the participants into scanning, where they glanced behind them to identify the number of hands a volunteer was holding up. After yielding into a figure-eight the students had a final activity, the stop, where they had to look both ways before continuing on to the start of the course again. This event had some 50 or so students, but even though it was busy it went incredibly well. A number of kids had the chance to learn how to cycle for the first time and received a great deal of support from their friends. A volunteer bike mechanic helped make sure all the bikes were in order and made sure the children had safe equipment while on the course.
Thurgood School: Asbury Park 6/9/17
Immediately after concluding the Freehold Learning Center Bike Rodeo, the Ambassadors from NJAIM met the representatives from EZ Ride at Thurgood School in Asbury Park for the second exciting event of the day. The event had less students than the earlier rodeo, but the participants were excited to get out on the course. The street in front of the school had been barricaded off providing ample space for a wide roundabout, a long avoidance course, and the turning drill. The students took to the course after helmet fitting. The kids were exuberant, sometimes needing to be told to slow down a bit and to be careful, but the event was a great success for all. After the first or second time through the course the participants signaled and obeyed traffic signs like they had been doing it for years.
Parker School Rodeo 6/9/17
Three NJAIM ambassadors, in collaboration with event facilitator Christopher Gonda of Keep Middlesex Moving, successfully ran a Bicycle Rodeo at Parker Elementary School in Middlesex, New Jersey from 9:30 to 11:30am on Friday June 9th of 2017. Roughly seventy Parker Elementary school students ranging in age and grade level gained firsthand experience navigating a bicycle safety course, which included hazard avoidance drills, stop signs, left and right hand turns, and yield signs. Course participants were eager to race through the course as fast as they possibly could with a sense of reckless abandon only found in school age youth, as facilitators reminded the eager students safe practices such as safe following distance and use of hand signals at turns and stop signs. At the beginning of the Rodeo, a second grader had difficulty with her training wheel being bent upon arriving at the course check-in. During the pre-course safety check, NJAIM ambassadors were able to successfully bend the wheel back in to place and the student was able to participate safely in the program’s offered activities.
Jack Johnson Bicycle Valet 6/10/17
In a unique partnership, NJAIM, AlAtOnce, and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, held a bicycle valet at a Jack Johnson concert at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, New Jersey. The bicycle valet created an opportunity for BPRC to distribute safety pamphlets and encourage bicycling in the region. The bicycle valet that was stationed outside of the concert generated a great deal of interest, even if it was not used extensively. When the ambassadors engaged pedestrians it was common to hear that the bike valet idea was “awesome” or “really cool.” The cyclist who got to use the valet were incredibly thankful to have the safe place to store their bikes while they enjoyed the smooth melodies of Jack Johnson. Our partners with the Bicycle Coalition had a very successful day, handing out numerous informational brochures and signing on new members. The event was a solid first attempt by NJAIM; future events like this one can further improve exposure for cyclists needs within New Jersey.