Cycling BC’s iRide program rode into town last week with plans to expand throughout the region next year.
Professional cyclist and former Canadian National Criterium Champion (2012) Ben Chaddock brought the program, along with 25 bicycles and all the safety gear to go with them to Robson Community School for three days. During the program each grade 3-7 class got a 45-60 minute session of cycling training.
After a head injury sidelined his competitive career, Chaddock, known to the kids as Captain Cookie, found a new passion as the iRide program coordinator. “I’m here to get people excited and introduced to the program,” he said.
The iRide program is designed to introduce students aged 6-16 to cycling with a fun and free event during school gym class. According to their website their goal “is to provide all young people in BC with physical literacy through a positive cycling experience and to help create a pathway from the playground to the highest level of the sport they wish to pursue.”
Mark Jennings from Castlegar Parks and Trails was instrumental in bringing the program to Castlegar and has labeled himself an iRide champion. “Given our culture around here, I don’t think it will be a problem getting people on board with the concept,” he said. “This was sort of a pilot project, and now I would like to take it to the next level.”
“The focus of the program is safety, fun and learning through games,” explained Chaddock. The aim is to improve a student’s riding ability, no matter what level they are starting at. Those who don’t know how to ride at all are taught the basics, and those with more experience work on improving and expanding their skills. More advanced skills include navigating obstacles, ramps, stunts and other things one would experience out in the natural environment. “We finish each day with a game, reinforcing the skills we learned,” added Chaddock.
“We teach them to ride a bike first on a school ground in a safe environment with their friends, building friendships with their peers,” said Chaddock.
The program was first developed in 2008 and has grown tremendously since, especially in the past few years. In 2014, 2000 kids participated in the progam. In 2015, the number jumped to 10,000, and the expectation for this year is about the same.
Organizers plan to expand the program throughout School Districts 20 and 8 next year. Plans also include something they call the iRide games, which is a team cycling competition that would see teams from different schools compete against each other.
“All we want to do is get kids excited about biking,” said Chaddock. “In time, these people become more willing to ride to work, have a healthier lifestyle, now that they have been empowered with the ability to ride a bike… combine the friends, with the comfort level that the skills provide and you are starting to change society over the long term.”
If you are interested in helping with the program or becoming a coach contact iRide@cyclingbc.net.