BikeSafe Goes To (Elementary) School: A Pilot for Success

Behind the scenes of our latest events and projects, our team has been hard at work developing a brand-new curriculum; one that bridges the divide between early childhood and the importance of neighborhood safety: BikeSafe Elementary.

But, you might ask, don’t we already have an elementary curriculum? Indeed, we do, but that is part of our WalkSafe Program. BikeSafe, until now, has been intended for middle schools. However, elementary P.E. teachers throughout Miami-Dade County have regularly asked for an elementary-appropriate version of the latter, and thanks to a recent Transportation Alternatives grant, this has become a reality.

2023 marked the first year of the BikeSafe Elementary curriculum’s pilot with ten, specially-selected Miami-Dade County schools. We are extremely appreciative that the school district has arranged for us to both pilot this curriculum within the busy schedule of our teachers, and to allow us to observe the implementation in person.

While the BikeSafe Elementary Curriculum is designed to establish basic bicycle safety knowledge for the youngest of students, and thus contains the typical safety topics of signs, signals, and being predictable around others (essentially, the content one might expect from a traditional curriculum), our new BikeSafe Elementary curriculum takes it a step further and is stocked with critical information about protected bike lanes and safe streets. With years of research now demonstrating that protected bike lanes are the #1 safety intervention our cities can make for all-ages rider safety,1 integrating this information is absolutely crucial for our next generation of bicycle riders.

Artwork from the curriculum depicting a protected bike lane in Chicago.

The new curriculum provides a wealth of this information for students, and even introduces instructors to these new concepts. As one might expect, many of the new activities are tied in with the importance of protected bike lanes and safe places for our most vulnerable road users. Safe streets may only just be arriving to Miami-Dade now, but in 15 years, when today’s elementary students are navigating Miami as adults, this infrastructure will be the norm – making what they learn now in the BikeSafe Elementary curriculum foundational life-long knowledge for the future. Focusing on safe street design actually benefits the current off-bike format of the curriculum as well, a requirement of Miami-Dade Schools so that every single student could receive this lifesaving education, regardless of their access to a bicycle.

Physical dividers to create safety for road users of differing speeds is a life-long public health lesson – no matter how humble the implementation.

As part of this endeavor, we are particularly appreciative to the coaches who generously gave of their time to participate in our focus groups and provided us the opportunity to observe the implementation of the curriculum’s first pilot year. We particularly wish to thank Coach Diaz from Ruth K. Harbor K-8 Center and Coach Oliveria from Kendale Elementary for their exceptional feedback.

Both coaches have done a fantastic job in making the pilot a success. We took particular note of Coach Diaz’s specific adjustments to tailor the curriculum to the skill level of his students; interactions that we will be taking into account with the next round of revisions to the pilot curriculum. Likewise, Coach Oliveria has been a major contributor since attending our very first focus group, and her enthusiasm on the field while teaching is wonderfully contagious.

Their feedback will make an already well-crafted curriculum – if we do say so ourselves – even better, and we hope that the momentum and support for bicycle safety will continue to spread throughout the entirety of Miami-Dade elementary schools as the curriculum evolves into its final form.

Perhaps someday, our children will come home from school to tell us all about protected bike lanes and safety culture. Now that’s a world we’d love to see.