As the days become longer with plenty of sunshine, elementary students in the Carson City School District may be more eager than ever to put their bike tires to the asphalt.
But with greater outdoor activity comes greater responsibility. And when it comes to safety, both the school district and city officials want to leave as little as possible to chance.
“We really want them to know, early on, how to walk and bike safely,” said Cortney Bloomer of the Carson City Department of Health and Human Services. “These are skills they are going to use their entire lives.”
Bloomer, herself a cyclist, is the program coordinator of Western Nevada Safe Routes to Schools, a regional arm affiliated with the national campaign to foster a safe and healthy environment for student walking and biking.
The program started in Carson City in 2012 and has since expanded to Lyon and Douglas counties. Bloomer works with all three school districts to help train students in matters of safety as well as organize and sponsor annual events, such as Nevada Moves Day, Bike to School Day and Walk to School Day.
The program’s main objective is to increase safe biking and walking to and from school, which may result in repainting crosswalks, adding new traffic signs and other measures.
“We want kids to be active,” said Bloomer. “Active kids are healthier.”
Linda Hurzel, a P.E. Teacher at Bordewich-Bray Elementary, has been teaching bike safety for 20 years.
“If we save one child’s life, or prevent one brain injury, the program’s worth it,” Hurzel said.
Even before the Western Nevada SRTS program was established, the district procured grant money to purchase a bike trailer, multiple bikes and helmets — all of which now rotate between schools for a two-week safety unit targeting third through fifth graders.
The first week of the unit, Hurzel said, focuses on safety basics like arm signals. During the second week, students ride bikes in order to practice. Hurzel also uses a messy “egg drop” exercise to illustrate the importance of wearing helmets.
“I still see a lot of kids not wearing helmets,” she said. “If I can get one or two kids each year to buy into it, then we’ve made a difference.”
Since the inception of the regional SRTS program, teachers have been coordinating with Bloomer in what Hurzel described as “a great partnership.” Not only does Bloomer help teach safety skills, but the program provides additional bikes for training as well as free helmets to anyone in need.
Like Bloomer, Hurzel wants to develop lifelong exercise habits in her students, a shared goal that ties back to the district’s strategic plan and overall community health.
“Do anything you can to take care of that heart,” Hurzel advised. “You only got one. Be good to it.”
For more information on Western Nevada Safe Routes to Schools or to obtain a free helmet, contact Bloomer at (775) 283-7525 or email@example.com.