Donated bike fleet will aid education at Mankato schools

MANKATO — Mankato schools will have new fleets of bicycles to educate students about bike safety and maintenance this year.

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund partnered with Blue Earth County Public Health on the purchase of 60 bikes for the programming. The committee presented the county with a $50,000 grant for the bikes at Vikings training camp Wednesday.

Students from Rosa Parks Elementary took the bikes for a test ride afterward, providing a preview of what curriculum in schools could look like this fall.

Sharon Patterson, physical education instructor at Kennedy Elementary, said bike safety could be part of the curriculum at all elementary schools soon enough thanks to the fleet.

“It will allow every student to have the opportunity to ride,” she said.

In past years, schools could rent out a fleet from the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota for safety curriculum. Now the schools can have their own bikes to share between themselves.

“It’s going to expose hundreds and hundreds of kids through the years to safe bicycling and a lifetime of bicycling,” said Kelley Haeder, Blue Earth County’s public health supervisor.

She thanked the Super Bowl committee for being a willing partner on the funding. The committee’s gift comes as part of its 52 Weeks of Giving campaign, which awards 52 communities with health and wellness grants. Wednesday was Mankato’s turn to reap the benefits.

As children zipped by on a bicycle course set up on Minnesota State University tennis courts, Greater Mankato Bike and Walk Advocates board member Jed Chronic said the fleet is the result of strong collaboration between his organization, the committee and others.

“The culmination of actually seeing the kids on bikes, it’s really great to see,” he said.

The bike curriculum will entail a week of classroom or hands-on training in physical education classes. The students learn bike basics, rules of the road and, of course, to always wear a helmet. The fleet includes balance bikes as well as adaptive bikes for children with disabilities.

Patterson said she can’t wait to see students start using the fleet this fall. If their reactions at all resemble the Rosa Parks students Wednesday, smiles should abound.

“I love to see the confidence that these kids pick up,” Patterson said. “Their smiles, their excitement is so contagious, you just want to get out and ride with them.”

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