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Kids have fun when they ride bikes. They also get needed physical activity.
But did you know that riding a bike can aid children’s balance, reduce anxiety and stress, reduce their obesity risk, promote social interaction, and help acclimate to their surroundings?
That’s why we at Salud America! are spotlighting Salud Heroes who are pushing for safe, bike-friendly environments for Latino and all kids!
Growing up, Dante Jones always looked forward to weekend bike rides with his father.
In those rides with his dad, Jones said he learned important life lessons and experienced the beauty of the outdoors, all while getting exercise.
So when his daughter, Glory, was old enough to ride a bike, he decided to start a similar tradition. He hoped it would allow them to spend more quality time together. And that it would instill in her the value of living an active lifestyle with fun activities like biking and skating.
Jones noticed that other children from the neighborhood wanted to tag along when he and his daughter would go out for bike rides. He invited them along. He started to realize they had few positive role models. They had few afterschool programs to keep them active and safe.
He ended up starting a monthly bike ride and the “Roll Models” to incorporate the physical activity of skating and biking with lessons on overcoming life’s challenges.
“We would like to train teenagers to become Roll Models in their own neighborhood,” Jones said. “Because there’s nothing like having a physical role model who grew up and came out of what you came out of, to be able to set the example for you.”
Juan Tarango is an avid cyclist in Tempe, Arizona. He loves to see kids ride bicycles, having fun and getting physical activity.
But he hated seeing how many kids show up with bike-related injuries at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital ER where he worked.
“One kid-wasn’t going fast, wasn’t doing tricks-falls, hits his head, and ends up with life-changing brain injury,” Tarango said.
Tarango wanted to help.
So he develop a comprehensive bike, bike maintenance, and bike safety curriculum with time for instruction and hands-on experience.
“Biking opens the door to discover your neighborhood and your city,” he said.
In 2009, Douglas Johnson, the new principal at Mountlake Terrace Elementary School in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. (10.5% Latino), realized the enormity of physical inactivity and obesity in his community.
Latino kids lack safe, quality opportunities for physical activity. This heightens their risk for obesity and disease.
Safe biking opportunities provide an avenue to improve the situation.
Johnson and other leaders at Mountlake Terrace started by partnering with local cycling clubs.
Soon, they began creating opportunities. They helped bring new bikes, helmets, and a brand-new bike trail to the school. Kids can check out bikes at recess and get the physical activity they need to stay healthy.
“It’s about hearing great ideas and running with them,” Johnson said. “Being open to an idea and trying it and then asking, what’s next?”
Ricardo Rocha believes anyone can be a hero and improve local healthy food access.
Even someone like him.
Rocha grew up in a poor family that toiled to put food on the table in Mexico. He immigrated to the deserts of New Mexico, and eventually Denver (31% Latino). He was a struggling, undocumented high-schooler.
When Ricardo saw people failing to find healthy food, he knew he could help.
So Ricardo started a business—Abarrotes Bondadosa (Goodness Groceries)—to deliver groceries by motorized tricycles to four of the lowest-income neighborhoods in Denver.
“With Abarrotes Bondadosa, we found a real way to help people who need help and make a difference in their health and their lives.”
Benjamin Alexander was already an avid bicyclist when he started working at a local community center, where he mentored kids in Kansas City, Kan., which is 28% Latino. He rode his bike to work every day.
At the center in 2011, Alexander was fixing his bike when a middle-school student asked him how he was doing it.
The student mentioned wanting to learn how to fix bikes for little kids.
Astonished by the student’s desire to help others, Alexander began searching for existing programs which might teach kids how to fix bikes, but he quickly found that there were no such programs in the area.
This drove him to start FreeWheels for Kids, a program that teaches middle-schoolers to have fun and stay active and how to fix bikes. They also build nature trails, and voice their desire for a bike friendly community with bike-friendly streets.
“The purpose of a bike club is to give youth ages 12-18 the chance to learn about what assets the community has, as well as identify some things that might need improvement,” Alexander said. “Students do this all while getting exercise, learning to map trails, participating in civic change and anything else they can come up with.”
Explore More:Transportation & Mobility
By The Numbers
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.