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District pilots bike, pedestrian safety program

Six CMSD schools will pilot a bicycle and pedestrian safety program for second-graders this spring.

Charles Dickens, Charles A. Mooney, Harvey Rice, Marion C. Seltzer, George Washington Carver and Patrick Henry schools will participate in the program, which the St. Luke’s Foundation funded with a $15,560 grant.

The grant was obtained through the Safe Routes to School initiative, a partnership between CMSD, the city, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the advocacy group Bike Cleveland.

The bike and pedestrian safety program is patterned after a districtwide program in Washington, D.C. Calley Mersmann, CMSD's Safe Routes to School coordinator, said she hopes to see the bike and safety program expand to the rest of the District next year.

Bike Cleveland and the nonprofit Ohio City Bicycle Co-op, a non-profit organization, are training physical-education teachers so they can show children how to safely adjust, ride and maintain their bicycles. A session was held at Patrick Henry on Friday, when teachers from across the District attended various training programs.

“I’m an avid bicyclist,” said Jean Bushley, who teaches physical education at Patrick Henry. “I just want to bring this program to the kids to share my passion.”

Jim Sheehan, executive director of the Ohio City Bike Co-op, conducted the class with help from James Watson, a bike shop owner and co-op board member. Sheehan guided the teachers through details that included how to properly wear a helmet, adjust the bicycle and their clothing and balance the bike.

Watson said it is important to help children build on their skills as they grow older. He estimated that fewer than half of adults are know how to safely ride and maintain bicycles.

Local bike mechanics worked four hours on Thursday to refurbish the last of 150 bicycles donated to the program by individuals police departments, churches and other organizations.

Mersmann hopes to organize a “fixathon” at the end of the program, so students can bring their own bikes for repairs. She also is planning to arrange a “walk and ride” for participants and their families.

CMSD and partners launched Safe Routes to School, part of a national initiative, in July. The goals include mapping safe routes for as many of Cleveland’s PreK-8 or K-8 students as possible, obtaining grants for safety improvements, helping children get physically fit and focused in school and reducing pollution.