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Hands-on experience gives teachers leg up on bike safety

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Emily Gruenewald gets ready to take an obstacle course on a bike.
Emily Gruenewald gets ready to take an obstacle course on a bike during a BikeMN educator workshop at Moreland Arts & Health Sciences Magnet School in St. Paul on Monday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Quick — how do you signal a turn on a bicycle? Teachers and school staff brushed up on that and much more Monday at a hands-on training meant to help more Minnesota students walk and bike to school.

The training, run by the organization Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, gave the educators lessons and tips for teaching students the rules of the road when it comes to walking and biking.

The teachers watched and coached as their fellow participants wobbled on bikes down chalk-painted courses practicing starts and stops, signaling turns, yielding and avoiding hazards.

Educators create courses for exercises that help kids learn bicycle safety.
Educators create courses for exercises that help kids learn bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Evan Frost | MPR News

"A lot of students do live in the neighborhoods nearby, and they are biking to school because they're not at the age of driving yet," said Christian Lawver, a school technology specialist and staff member with the district's summer camp program. "If we can teach them the little things, I think it's going to be very important for them to use that."

The four-year-old Bicycle Alliance program conducts training throughout Minnesota and has trained about 600 educators and other community members.

"Biking and walking is not as popular as it used to be. ... Based on where schools are located now, busing [has become] more prominent, so this is an opportunity for us to get biking and walking education back into schools," Bicycle Alliance communications director Joanna Olson said.

Special education paraprofessional Tyler Green said middle school students in the district's program this summer will get daily practice riding bikes, and he plans to put his new teaching tips to use. Green said students who bike and walk to school can benefit from the exercise.

"Even if it's just for 10 minutes to school and 10 minutes back home each day, that's 20 more minutes than you get normally," Green said.