From Program Coordinator Celeste Verhelst:
As the Program Coordinator for Learn to Ride, I look forward with glee and gratitude to the yelps of joy and determined smiling faces of diverse folks learning to ride a bicycle each class. September marks our last four-week session, which has started off with a lot of enthusiasm and many folks pedaling on the first day. It’s such an inspiration to see adults conquering their fears to learn something new, to not be afraid to fall and get back up again, and to create a supportive encouraging atmosphere for everyone in the group. Of course, bicycle riding is so blissful, so the smiles the first time someone pedals are priceless. Sometimes at the end of class when we do our last go-around, our cheeks are hurting from so much smiling. Sometimes there are little wounds to bandage from passionate souls determined to keep pedaling. And sometimes there are also tears of joy and howls of success bolstered by cheers from the whole class.
The structure of the class starts with social justice and safe, accessible space for all folks. The foundation of Cycles for Change is making space for everyone’s voice, celebrating each other’s successes, and encouraging folks to be bike leaders in their communities. Mad thanks to my predecessors and rad folks who have made this program what it is! And the volunteers! Volunteers in the Learn to Ride program have been some of the best folks I’ve met and some of our best volunteers are folks who have completed the program and want to teach others the skills. This class is incredible! It just makes everyone feel good. It’s like seeing people sprout wings, but they are wheels. And, really, they do all the work. Learn to Ride teaches folks to find their own balance and to trust themselves and their relationship with the beautiful machine that is the bicycle. Many folks that join the class are immigrants, women who have not necessarily been encouraged by their culture to ride bikes, parents who have taught their kids and want to learn so they can keep up with them, or folks who just grew up in this country moving often in busy cities where it wasn’t a safe option to learn. Usually on the first day students are kind of skeptical, but that quickly changes as they learn to build balance, learn about the mechanics of the bike, and realize how great it feels to ride. Once they start pedaling it’s hard to get them to stop. With all the great bike paths here in the Twin Cities, who wouldn’t want to learn to ride a bike? We hope to get some nice fall rides in with all the graduated cyclists from the class. Bicycle riding is the perfect antidote for so many stresses–it increases health, balance, joy, and is totally free and freeing! It gets you to beautiful places in nature, requires no resource extraction or oppressing other beings. I’m so grateful to get to be a part of this experience and share this joy with others!