Tough Kids: Part Two
We did the final Tough Kids class on Saturday. Originally it was scheduled for the West Bank parking lot, but since the weather wasn't cooperating, we moved everything over to Owen Park on the other side of downtown. Believe me, it was a scramble to get it all done. Owen Park offered the advantage of a gymnasium for shelter if the weather deteriorated. As it turned out, we didn't need it. Light rain came down once or twice, but it lasted only a few seconds.
We had more kids signed up for this session, too. I think the count was supposed to be 74, but I don't know how many didn't show up. Regardless, we were short of loaner bicycles. Some of the kids had to take turns riding them.
One other restriction was apparent right away. The parking lots are much smaller than the West Bank lot. We had to take turns using the parking lots too. This worked out OK, as our group did a lecture while the other did practice drills. Kids being kids, some were obviously not thrilled with sitting through a lecture. They get lots of that in school, as one of the boys delighted in pointing out.
Michael Schooling and I took our group outside to a big patio. We covered the ABC Quick Check several times as new arrivals joined the group. After the third time, I said, “I'm tired of teaching this! Paige, you come up here and teach it.” Paige is about 12 with red hair and freckles. She was a little bit shy, but joined in with a huge grin on her face.
Like I said, some weren't happy about sitting through a lecture, but Mike and I tried to keep it fast paced and interesting. We covered starting and stopping, lane position, mid-block ride outs, and sidewalk riding – most of the actions that get kids into conflict with pedestrians and motor vehicles. We described the drills they'd be performing and discussed the reasons for them.
One mother joined us and asked some good questions. She wanted to know why skidding a tire caused longer stopping distances, for instance, something a kid would never think to ask. This is one of the differences between teaching children as opposed to teaching adults. In many cases, the kids will simply accept it as fact. Adults want to know why. When it comes to doing the drills, kids usually see them as a challenge, particularly the instant turn. Adults can be much more hesitant to try it.
After a short break for snacks, we were off to the parking lot for drills. The kids did the serpentine, a rock dodge, braking, and instant turns in a small parking lot. Mike and I set up two drill areas. As the kids exited one, they simply turned and joined the line for the next one, forming a quickly moving circle of riders. When the pace is fast, the kids don't get a chance to be bored. I worked with one of the lines doing the look back drill. Maybe the other instructors let me do this one because I'm so loud. Regardless, I was a bit hoarse afterward.
After the parking lot maneuvers, Gary Parker led the group on a brief road ride, a simple loop around the park. One kid dropped out with saddle problems. I fixed it for him, but by then the group was far ahead. We rolled back to the starting point and waited as they came around on their second lap. I didn't join in as they went by, though, because I was running short of time. My son had to be at work at 3PM, and I'd agreed to drive him there. I'm still the family chauffeur, after all.
So, what was learned from this latest event? First, always have a back-up plan in case of bad weather. Sandra covered that admirably. Second, keep down time to a minimum. Keep the kids moving and actively involved in the instruction. While I think we can improve on this, I believe we improvised very well given the change of venue and the larger number of kids.
I'll end this by saying we all owe a great thank you to the volunteers who gave up their own time for this event. We could not have done it without a big group of committed cyclists.