Kids use the streets for bicycling every day.

Yet roads can be hazardous, and children are not formally educated to skillfully maneuver on the streets.

A Healthier Southwest is moving forward with a strategy to change this. Walk! Bike! Fun! is a hands-on training tool created by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The purpose is to build students’ confidence with walking and biking and help them to stay safe, active and healthy. A Healthier Southwest, in partnership with the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), is assisting seven local school districts to create and implement Safe Routes to School plans.

It began with a training in October 2017 where teachers, law enforcement and community partners from Hills-Beaver Creek, Ivanhoe-Lincoln Elementary, Fulda, Luverne, Marshall, Murray County Central, Pipestone Area Schools, Redwood Falls-St. John’s Lutheran, Tracy and Wabasso participated in the Walk! Bike! Fun! training. This provided the foundation to help teach children ages five to 13 how to be safe pedestrians and bicyclists through age-specific classroom lessons and activities,and on-the-bike skills practice.

Another tool now available is the inaugural Minnesota Bicycling Handbook. The handbook, released by Bike MN in May 2017, equips bicyclists with information to safely enjoy Minnesota's roads and trails, and it provides guidance for motorists on what to expect from bicyclists and how to safely drive when bikes in the area.

The year 2016 was “a challenging year for motor vehicle and bicycle crashes, and that really pushed us make this new resource available for free to all Minnesotans,” said Dorian Grilley, executive director for Bike MN. “There clearly needs to be more education for both motorists and bicyclists about how to share Minnesota’s roads and trails safely. We think this resource does just that.”

This is the first time all of this information has been captured and put in one place.

BikeMN printed 20,000 handbooks and is in the process of distributing them across the state. The handbook is available to download online at www.bikemn.org.

Information courtesy of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota

Photo courtesy of the Internet Public Domain