Classes were out and excitement was in the air on April 27 at Holy Name School in Camden, New Jersey, as eight fifth- through eighth-graders enthusiastically greeted their new Fuji hybrid bikes, which were waiting patiently at the school playground for their proud owners. The students are members of the Rutgers-Camden IGNITE afterschool cycling program, which promotes cycling as an inclusive, lifelong sport that advances an accessible and healthy lifestyle.
As IGNITE Instructor George Wood affirms, the goal is “to develop a group of youngsters into cyclists that can conduct themselves safely and responsibly in an urban, suburban and trail environment.”
Through the program, 42 students from Holy Name and nearby Cooper’s Poynt Family School practice cycling skills twice a week on roads and on trails in Camden and in neighboring towns.
Wood’s goal for the classes—which focus on fitness, environmental awareness, teamwork, leadership skills, perseverance and community building—is to instill in each student a working knowledge of the Camden GreenWay and the Circuit Trails, thereby enabling them to use the trail networks “to connect rides in more distant locations.”
Wood quelled the brouhaha in the energized schoolyard and called for the group’s attention as he demonstrated how to use the brakes and handlebars of the new fleet, which were different from the old bikes. That fleet—provided in 2008 through RTC’s Metropolitan Grants Program (a partnership between RTC, The Coca-Cola Foundation and more than 50 trail-building communities across the country to date)—had seen nearly 18,000 miles of use by hundreds of students and, after much wear and tear, were ready to be replaced!
The new bikes were also made possible through the generosity of: Fuji bike manufacturer Advanced Sports International, which provided the bikes at a discount; and local bike shop Danzeisen & Quigley, who donated their time and talent to assemble and deliver the fleet.
After a quick test ride around the basketball court, the group was ready for their inaugural ride, which—over the course of the next two hours—took them approximately 10 miles around the Camden GreenWay and along some of the amazing trails that help make up the region’s in-progress, 750-mile Circuit Trails network. Special highlights of the trip included Pyne Poynte Park, the Camden Aquarium and the Battleship New Jersey—with views of Philadelphia’s skyline seen throughout. The students also requested a visit to a particularly steep hill along the waterfront to practice their downhill control.
Student Giambi Nesbitt helped lead the ride and ensure the others rode safely, part of a leadership role he has embraced since joining the program.
Giambi says that through the program, he enjoys getting the opportunity to “go to places I normally don’t go in Camden.” He also says that he was excited to receive the new bikes, which “are much smoother and … easier to stop [than the old bikes].”
“It shows we’ve earned it!” Giambi adds.
Thanks to Rutgers-Camden IGNITE and their new fleet of bikes, a new generation of trail lovers is being developed!