‘Virtual Bike Rodeos’ Offered in Place of In-school Lessons

Story by Matt Prokopchuk

The COVID-19 pandemic may have closed Thunder Bay’s schools for the academic year, but officials with EcoSuperior say children and their parents can still brush up on their cycling skills, as instruction that’s usually offered in class is now available online.

The not-for-profit usually delivers Safe Cycling Thunder Bay’s “bike rodeos” in the city’s schools during the spring, says Caroline Cox, the program coordinator of EcoSuperior’s environmental initiatives. The rodeos are dedicated hands-on lessons provided to students by trained instructors. The sessions cover things like safety checks on bikes and helmets as well as proper on-road riding cycling rules and procedures; they also also include a supervised ride with the instructor.

The pandemic has forced those lessons online, using a series of videos, Cox says. One advantage with this method, she adds, is that families can learn together.

“COVID really changed what we can do, it opened up new opportunities to reach parents,” Cox says. “For many parents, their cycling education ended when they learned how to ride a two-wheeler.”

“We find that [ordinarily] we teach the kids safety checks and we teach them helmet checks and we teach them cycling skills, and a lot of times, they’re going home and teaching their parents but now we have that direct connection.”

The videos contain the same information that instructors usually speak about in schools, Cox says. A “virtual family learn to ride” video also shows parents how to teach their children, according to the organization.

Before classes were cancelled, EcoSuperior says a record 825 students were signed up for this year’s bike rodeos.

Given that the pandemic has provided more opportunities for people to walk or cycle, Cox says the virtual lessons come at an important time.

“It’s awesome to be able to support families as they transition more to active transportation and to give them the skills they need to help them travel safely,” she says.