Things happen fast when members of the Keep It Tight (KIT) Cycle Team are pushing the pedals in races, on mountain trails or within team events, but few things in the club have come together as quickly and successfully as a new bicycle training event that will come to Jamaica Plain this month – a carefully social-distanced program that will teach a group of selected kids from in and around the neighborhood how to ride a bike.
And they may even leave with more than just this new skill too.
Art Trapotsis said KIT is a bike club made up of serious riders from Arlington, Lexington and Watertown, and they had been wanting to do some sort of event in the city to share their skills with kids who may not know how to ride a bike – as biking has been identified during COVID-19 times as a great way for kids to get good, socially-distanced exercise in the absence of school physical education classes and school recess time.
“I’m actually blown away how quickly this came together over the last six weeks,” said Trapotsis. “We’re a bunch of pretty serious cyclists that live in a privileged community. A lot of us are racers and a lot of us like to just ride bicycles thousands of miles a year. Beyond that, there was a core group of us that wanted to see if we could make some sort of difference with bikes in a tangible way. We wanted to not just raise money, but also to participate in the event. The idea is to teach these young people all the things we take for granted.”
With an idea in hand, Trapotsis reached out to KIT member Richard Hislop, another serious cyclist who also is a minister at the Boston Church of Christ’s Arlington region. Hislop was eager to held, he said, and reached out to the church’s benevolence non-profit, called HOPE Worldwide – which stages a large fundraising walk in JP at Franklin Park every spring. He also reached out to long-time Boston Police Officer Daryl Owens. Between HOPE Director Ken Lowey and Officer Owens, and the strong efforts of the KIT volunteers, they were able to secure English High School for the instructional event, and Owens was able to reach out to Boston Police in JP who were familiar with young people that would benefit from, and enjoy, the new program.
“We really see this as a peacemaking event in a time of so much racial tension and economic disparity,” said Hislop.
However, then came the need for something to ride for each of the 17 or so kids that have been carefully chosen by Boston Police to attend (it isn’t an open public event due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions). KIT began raising money, and HOPE Worldwide also put out the call to its network. The goal was $6,000, and within days they had $5,000. Now, the event is completely funded. Trapotsis and Hislop said they had reached out to some other local organizations, but many weren’t sure about the vision for the event. Landry’s Cycles, however, caught the idea and provided all of the new bikes that will be used at a discount price. It’s seemingly a very complicated effort that ended up coming together in a way where all the pieces fell together in order for KIT to be able to pass on their skills to kids in JP that may not have bike-riding experience.
“We have the supplies, and we have the funding,” said Hislop. “What’s really good is this model is sustainable. Any funding we got above our goal simply goes to next year’s event – our 2nd annual Bike for Kids Day. The event is sustainable because now we have the partnerships.”
Now, the only thing left to do is the fun part, teaching kids how to ride a bike at English High on Oct. 24. The plan is to include the local Boston Police community service officers, KIT volunteers and HOPE Worldwide volunteers – though the numbers of volunteers have been limited due to COVID-19 regulations, Trapotsis said.
They will have several stations at English, including ‘Ground Zero’ where they teach the basics to young people who have never gotten on a bike. There will also be stations for how to turn safely, how to navigate when around other bikes, and other situations one might experience when on a bicycle – things the KIT members practice daily or weekly.
Trapotsis said they are simply excited to be able to coordinate and bring the program to JP – and intend to make it a yearly event.
“This year, if we can have an impact on just one kid and help them have a great day and learn a new skill, it will mean the world to our team,” he said. “We want to do this year over year. It’s why we’re calling it the first annual event.”
The event will take place at English High on Oct. 24, but it isn’t open to the public due to the COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.