Since 2016, BPAC has been supporting the Bicycling in the Schools (BITS) program at Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS). BITS now teaches bicycling skills and safety to students in all of Alexandria’s public schools as part of ACPS’s Physical Education (PE) curricula. For leading this effort and supporting ACPS’s Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) program, Eldon Boes and Jim Durham recently received awards from Volunteer Alexandria.
BPAC’s partnership with ACPS began in 2016 with a pilot biking program at Mount Vernon Community School. Eldon and Jim raised more than $4,000 through local businesses and grants so that ACPS could buy 35 bikes and helmets. They also collaborated with the MVCS PE teachers on formulating the bicycling curriculum, and they recruited volunteers to assist the PE teachers during the bicycling classes.
With positive parent and student feedback from the pilot program at MVCS, Eldon and Jim helped ACPS develop a SRTS program and successfully apply for annual Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) SRTS grants. The SRTS program promotes walking and biking to school, and it includes both pedestrian and bicycle safety education.
As part of SRTS, the BITS program has expanded within ACPS – first to 6 schools, then to 11 schools, and now to all 17 ACPS schools. ACPS’s Health and PE Department has 13 bike fleets that rotate among the schools. Eldon and Jim were instrumental in securing the grants used to purchase these bike fleets, as well as the storage trailers used to secure the bike fleets and move them from one school to another. Both have also continued to help PE teachers during the bicycling classes, and they have continued to pursue funding for ongoing bicycle maintenance and replacement costs.
Eldon received the Joan White Grassroots Volunteer Service Award, given to one or more volunteers who have selflessly committed time, energy, and skills to help organizations further their missions. Eldon consistently volunteers 5 to 10 hours per week during the school year. “It’s a lot of fun to see a child balance the bike for the first time, to get their feet on the pedals and keep going,” Eldon told ACPS Express.
Jim received Volunteer Alexandria’s Above and Beyond Award, in recognition of his countless hours improving student safety and helping students develop their biking skills. As Jim explained to ACPS Express, “My vision seven or eight years ago was bicycling and pedestrian safety education in every school in Alexandria and we are on track to do that.”
In a survey asking students whether they enjoyed BITS, over three quarters of the students selected “Yes, it was awesome!” BITS increases students’ ability to ride safely and skillfully. This empowers them to bike to school, athletic or social events, or their friends’ homes – which enhances their physical and mental health as well as their sense of freedom and independence.
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