A group of St. Agnes students in Barbara Peterson’s class were bubbling over with excitement when the doors of a large white trailer were opened in the school’s parking lot.

Inside were lots of bikes – 48 of them, bright, shiny, with different colors and different models, from standard two-wheeled bikes to striders and three-wheelers that offer extra stability.

And the students had their pick of which bike they would be riding around for a little while – getting exercise, fresh air and fun.

The bicycles – and helmets – were courtesy of CentraCare’s Bicycle Fleet that is making the rounds to schools across Minnesota in an effort to help children learn traffic rules and other safety tips while getting exercise all at the same time.

It’s part of the “Walk!Bike!Fun!” pedestrian and bicycle safety curriculum that was developed by the Bike Alliance of Minnesota through a federal Safe Routes to School Grant in collaboration with the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

St. Agnes was able to use the bicycles for three weeks, Sept. 26 through Oct. 16 – much to the delight of students, such as Alexis Bruder. When asked what was the coolest thing about the bikes, she said with a big smile, “You get to ride bike at school!”

Peterson and another St. Agnes teacher, Peggy Stowe, attended educator’s curriculum training for the program this past June in Long Prairie.

The bike fleet has been to several places since since its launch at the CentraCare Earth Day Run event on April 19, according to Hannah Dockendorf, community wellness specialist with CentraCare.

It has been to bike rodeos around St. Cloud and Sauk Centre, was used for the Walk! Bike! Fun! training in Long Prairie and St. Cloud, and stopped at a few different KIDSTOP sites in central Minnesota.

Each organization uses it for a different length of time, depending on what they are using it for and their staff capacity.

“When working with Barb at St. Agnes School, we suggested two weeks for the Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum training and she said that worked out really well for them,” Dockendorf said.

The program’s goal is to reduce the number of children who are injured each year through unsafe walking and bicycling activities. Teaching children while they are in school to be safe on sidewalks and roads will help reduce those injuries, according to the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

The curriculum includes lessons to teach:

  • How to safely cross the road.

  • Traffic laws and responsible riding.

  • Parts of a bike and proper attire including wearing a bike helmet.

  • Communicating with pedestrians and vehicle drivers.

  • Scanning, stopping and proper positioning on the road.

Additionally, newly added components of the curriculum will help educators use this curriculum in classrooms with students who need help or assistance walking and biking.

New in 2019, educators will find:

  • Activity adaptations to provide different ways to help teach the activity or skill by using a different piece of equipment or making modifications.

  • Tips to differentiated learning to help educators provide all students within their diverse classroom a range of different avenues for understanding new information.

  • An adaptive toolkit which provides a jumping-off point for using the curriculum with people with disabilities and a list of common bike adaptations.

  • Learn to Ride lessons for students who do not know how to ride a bicycle or may need a refresher.