Ghisallo Cycling Initiative teamed up with San Antonio Parks and Recreation to offer Bicycle Skills Challenge and Bike Club programs during the 2021 Summer Youth Program at the Southside Lions Community Center. It was our first time offering Cycle Academy programming at the site and it was a total success!
The Summer Youth Program (SYP) is a low-cost summer day camp run by the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. Our programs, with all bikes and equipment supplied, were available as an activity to the SYP campers at Southside Lions. We registered participants on the first day of camp in order to maximize our biking time. The 2021 SYP only ran for 5 weeks due to the extended school year.
At the end of the first week, we held our Bicycle Skills Challenge, a beginner level program that takes place entirely on-site using a closed course and provides training on basic skills. We covered things like starting, stopping, turning, signaling, and obstacle avoidance. We also introduced the idea of scanning, or checking for traffic approaching from behind. We practiced these skills on a course that allowed us to mimic real world riding situations. The program prepped our youth riders with the skills needed to join Bike Club, our small group, in-depth program that involves riding with instructors to different off-site destinations.
The following week, Bike Club began. We worked with the same participants each week on a mix of riding, safety, and bicycle maintenance skills, focusing on transportation, exploration and navigation. We hosted two sessions per week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with up to 12 riders per session.
Ample riding facilities were key for this location. Southside Lions Community Center is situated on a hill above Salado Creek. Around the center, there is a ~1 mile natural surface trail that is well used by community members. A trail spur navigates the hill to connect the community center to the eastern portion of Southside Lions Park. It also connects to the Salado Creek Trail, part of the Howard Peak Greenway trail system. Early on, we spent time honing skills in the parking lot and on park trails before heading down the hill to the Greenway. We also explored the neighborhood of slow, residential streets directly behind the center. Having access to these varied facilities allowed for many different destinations and skill building opportunities.
We had many memorable days. Favorite destinations included the playground at Comanche Park (even better with paletas, it turns out) and the lookout over Hiawatha St. Because navigation and exploration are pillars of the program, we would always try to incorporate something new. Once we got where we were going, we would play on the playground, play a fun bike game, or sometimes take a well-earned break. Riding off-site allowed for implementation of real world riding skills and a great sense of accomplishment. Students were constantly amazed to look at the map and see how far they had gone. The longest rides were over 5 miles. Overall, we hosted 9 sessions for 95 participants throughout the summer.