For Principal Doug Johnson and the staff of Mountlake Terrace Elementary School, teaching the three R’s is just the start – the school also puts a strong push for education in a fourth “R”: riding.
Bicycle education has been a part of the school’s physical education program for four years, ever since the Edmonds School District partnered with the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group to teach bicycle safety in district schools. While the elementary-age students learn about safe riding techniques and responsibilities, Johnson hopes the students also gain a lasting enthusiasm for the sport.
“I believe cycling is such a positive, life-long activity that develops for kids health and fitness patterns that stay with them,” Johnson said.
The fourth-year principal of Mountlake Terrace Elementary is a bicycle enthusiast himself, who not only enjoys cycling recreationally on pavement and on dirt, but has competed in road and velodrome racing, in addition to participating in various triathlons. Johnson said he “has five bicycles in my garage” and will occasionally use one to commute to the school from his home in Redmond.
“Yes, the students have seen me wearing my bicycle helmet,” Johnson said.
Earlier this spring, the school benefited from a federal Safe Routes to School grant of $330,304 split between the school district and the City of Mountlake Terrace. The funding is paying for current street and sidewalk improvements, in addition to increased traffic monitoring, around the school. The money also paid for 35 bikes for the school and new bicycle helmets for every student at the school. Students will receive their new helmets, made possible with assistance from the Cascade Bicycle Club, on Friday afternoon following a morning assembly dedicated to bicycle safety.
During the spring months, the school offers Wheels Club on Thursday, an opportunity for students to use bicycles during recess for riding a designated loop in the school drop off/pick up zone, out on the playground field, and on a specially-built safety course on the school grounds. “I get out there and ride with the kids when I can,” Johnson admitted.
The school also hosted a special assembly in March that featured renowned mountain bike trials rider Ryan Leech.
Johnson dreams that the next step in cycling for Mountlake Terrace Elementary is the building of a pump track, a small dirt course with bumps, banked corners and obstacles that help riders develop coordination, balance and control. The principal hopes to begin fundraising efforts next school year to pay for the design of a possible track in the future.
The school will also stage a bicycle rodeo from 9:30 a.m.-noon this Saturday, May 4, as part of various day-long activities at Mountlake Terrace High School, 21801-44th Ave. W.. All are invited to bring their own bikes, or borrow school district bicycles, to learn riding techniques, take part in riding activities and competitions, and receive free bicycle tune-ups and light repairs from volunteer technicians.
May is National Bike Month, as proclaimed by the League of American Bicyclists, and will be noted by Mountlake Terrace Elementary and Principal Johnson. “I hope to ride to school a little more in May,” Johnson added.