It was once the norm for children to bike around their neighborhoods and to school. Biking represented increased independence for growing kids while providing physical activity and access to social networks. In 1969, 50% of kids walked or biked to school. But by 2009, just 13% did.
Shifting Gears provides bicycle safety training and access to bikes for second graders in Atlanta Public Schools (APS), teaching kids how to bike safely and confidently in their neighborhoods. By instilling an awareness of bicycling and traffic safety at a formative age, we can improve children’s health outcomes and create a lifelong love of being active.
All children benefit from increased levels of physical activity. Shifting Gears partners with elementary schools that are taking action to combat health disparities in their school communities. By incorporating biking into the school day, the program benefits children’s mental health and sets them up for success in learning. According to the Safe Routes to School Partnership, exercise increases learning and memory in children, and those who face the greatest barriers to learning are those who stand to achieve the most. Recent studies are also finding that students diagnosed with ADHD can benefit from bicycling, as riding shifts brain activity patterns, resulting in longer attention spans.
This program is inspired by the work of the District of Columbia Public Schools.
The Shifting Gears program design supports Atlanta Public Schools' Health and Wellness programming, and the curriculum is aligned with Georgia's Performance Standards and Atlanta Public Schools curriculum guidelines.
We collaborated with the Atlanta Regional Commission and Partnerships to Improve Community Health to create a policy brief with recommendations that support healthy, active kids and schools. You can read it here: APS transportation policy brief.
Pilot schools (4): Thomasville Heights, Benteen, Gideons, and Dunbar Elementary Schools
Year 2 schools (5): Barack & Michelle Obama Academy, The Kindezi School at Old Fourth Ward, Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy Elementary School, Finch Elementary School, and Peyton Forest Elementary School
This program would not be possible without the vision and partnership of Atlanta Public Schools and The Office of Partnerships and Development!
We're also very grateful to Washington, D.C. Public Schools for their generosity of spirit and willingness to share resources and lessons learned.
Free Bikes 4 Kidz and Bearings are two nonprofits collaborating with us on this program to provide the bikes we use for training. Free Bikes 4 Kidz is a nonprofit organization geared toward helping all kids ride into a happier, healthier childhood by providing bikes to those most in need. Bearings Bike Shop is a youth development organization where kids in Atlanta can earn and maintain a bicycle while developing the skills and character essential to success in adulthood.
Supported by the TransFormation Alliance and Southeast Enterprise Community Partners, The Mary Alice and Bennett Brown Foundation, the Wells Fargo Foundation, and the Solstice Foundation.
Individuals are invited to donate to help us provide all Atlanta second grade students with bike safety education: