Officials from the Elvira and the Pima County Bicycle and Pedestrian Program have teamed up to begin designing and building a mountain-bike track around the school’s existing playground and fields.
“This is something that hasn’t really been done in Arizona yet and we want to be the first school to start it off,” Elvira’s physical education teacher Brian Eller said.
Pima County bicycle and pedestrian safety educator Ignacio Rivera de Rosales said he and Eller started devising the plan because the students had been so excited about the safety classes Rivera de Rosales teaches.
“They have been one of the schools that have given me a lot of energy,” Rivera de Rosales said. “[Brian] has really embraced the safe routes to school program and the principal has gotten behind it and is very excited about it.”
Indeed, Elvira principal Tom Hubbard says it is a great opportunity for the kids.
“We want to have our kids get excited about activity,” Hubbard said. “We want to encourage them to live those healthy active lifestyles.”
Eller said the bicycling program has been great at getting the kids excited about being active.
“Every time Ignacio has come down with the bikes and gone riding with them they have absolutely loved it,” Eller said. “It definitely been one of the most successful and most desired activities.”
He says a lot of recent research suggesting kids who are active during the school day perform better in their classes. Additionally, he said, educators are shying away from team sports — which end after a student finishes school— and moving toward individual activities like bicycling that can be done for a lifetime.
Rivera de Rosales said when he teaches the students about bicycle safety, they often get really excited about riding their bikes to school, but their parents’ fears often prevent them from doing so. The bike track allows them to ride their bikes, but remove the fear.
“The parents are scared to have their elementary school kids riding bicycles out on the road by themselves,” Rivera de Rosales said. “I understand that. It is a parental fear that is there and I can’t tell a parent not to be scared if they are. Recognizing that, I want kids to have a chance to ride bikes and have a great time with them and hopefully they start to love their bikes so much and they ride them so much that the parents are finally like, ‘Fine we’ll ride bikes with you.'”
For now, the plan is to use volunteer labor over Sunnyside’s spring break to build the park so students can begin bringing their own bikes to ride when they return to school.
They have contacted the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bikers group to assist in the design and creation of the track.
Long term, Eller said they would like to have a fleet of 10 bikes that students can check out; during, before and after school and during recess.
Rivera de Rosales has dreams of creating tracks at schools across Pima County and having bike racing teams at each school.
“I’d love to help cycling get on par with all those other sports,” he said. “If you have a ball field, you should have a bike track at your school.”
He said to do that there need to be more people like Eller.
“Brian has been a super champion,” Rivera de Rosales said. “One great person at your school can certainly make the difference and help get the ball rolling. Find that one person and we can try to make it happen.”
Eller for his part is still a little bit shocked that the track is going to happen.
“I can’t believe that is actually going to happen,” Eller said. “It is so impressive to me that all these community resources can come together and collaborate to create this completely unique and new program that is going to offer some amazing opportunities for kids. I am still kind of like pinching myself.”
Stay tuned to TucsonVelo.com for updates about the trail building days. Rivera de Rosales says they will need a lot of hands from the bike community to make it happen.