Bike Like Ike

Thanh -- May 10th, 2010

This is a continuation of a series of posts for Bike Month.

This Spring, the City of Harrisonburg in collaboration with students from James Madison University, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization (HRMPO), and the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (CSPDC) launched the “Bike Like Ike” campaign. Bike Like Ike aims to provide bicyclists and motorists with safety tips for sharing the road, as well as providing tips for how to comfortably ride your bike.

Bike Like Ike was developed in response to City Councilmembers expressing concerns that they have been observing many bicyclists in the city riding their bicycles in unsafe manners (for example, bicycling against the flow traffic, not observing red lights at traffic signals, riding unpredictably, etc.). City staff explored ways to provide education and outreach to the public and selected university students as the initial audience for the campaign. (Full disclosure: I am one of the two city staff members who led this initiative, the other person is Miriam Dickler, city Public Information Officer.)

In Spring 2009, city staff partnered with Dr. John Stone’s Public Relation’s class at James Madison University and developed the “Bike Like Ike” campaign which features a young bicyclist named Ike who travels around Harrisonburg by bicycle and likes to shares his bike safety tips with everyone. The campaign initiated with three different versions of handbills featuring safety tips, powerpoint slides for electronic bulletin boards on JMU campus were designed by the students, and tips were featured in Pottymouth. The campaign development continued, and in Spring 2010 another group from the Public Relations class worked to distribute the campaign by participating in No Drive Day, setting up a display on JMU campus and making themselves available to answer questions face-to-face, peer-to-peer.

Sample Bike Like Ike Handbills. Click to enlarge. If you would like to obtain a high resolution digital copy for printing, please contact thanhd [at] harrisonburgva [dot] gov.

The printing of campaign handbills are currently being funded by the HRMPO, who’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Education SubCommittee participated in developing the bicycle and motorists safety tips used in the campaign. Metropolitan Planning Organizations are required to spend a percentage of the federal funding they receive on safety, and the HRMPO’s Policy Board had selected to directed the funding towards bicycle and pedestrian safety initiatives. Additionally, the CSPDC offered to house the Bike Like Ike campaign on its Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee’s website. features additional Bike Like Ike tips for bicyclists and motorist as well regional bicycle event information, weblinks to local clubs’ websites, bicycle route maps and information, etc.

Next school year, new versions of Bike Like Ike handbills will be designed and printed for distribution and Bike Like Ike will also be featured on bus advertisement spaces on the sides of city public transit buses. Bike Like Ike will also be featured at Waterman Elementary (and possibly other area elementary schools) through displays at Parent Conference Days, Walk to School Days, school bulletin boards, newsletters, etc.  Other methods for spreading Ike’s messages are being explored (suggestions welcome!).

A limited number of handbills will be printed by the HRMPO to give out to other organizations wishing to help share Bike Like Ike’s messages. Anyone interested can contact Thanh Dang at thanhd [at] harrisonburgva [dot] gov to make a request for handbills (please indicate where/how you will distribute the handbills and how many you would like to receive). Alternatively, anyone may print copies of the Bike Like Ike handbills for distribution at events or through their organization (at their own cost) and can contact Thanh for a high resolution copy of the digital files. The files will also be posted soon at and be downloadable.

5 Responses to “Bike Like Ike”

  1. Nicholas D.S. says:

    A bicycle, especially one on the street rather than on a sidewalk or other shared use path, is a vehicle. As such, it is safest for cyclists to follow the same laws of the road as motorists (e.g. riding the with traffic, signaling turns, stopping at lights and stop signs, etc). These street cyclists often use their training and experience as drivers to safely navigate roads by bicycle.

    With this in mind, one of the huge problems I have been running into regarding education on safe bicycle operation is the reality that many youth who are nobly choosing to use their own power–rather than their parents SUVs–to get to youth group or a friend’s house do not yet know the rules of the rode or have experience as drivers.

    Elementary through high school youth are simply not equipped with either the legal knowledge or practical experience as a motor vehicle operator which adult cyclists use when peddling the streets.

    How do we teach those under 16 (and those over 16 who are poor drivers) how to legally and safely navigate the streets? Having never driven motor vehicles, they do not possess good spacial awareness. They don’t know how much distance is needed to stop a car or how fast cars are traveling through an intersection. They do not know all the laws.

    I do not want to tell “underaged” cyclists they have to walk, ride on the sidewalk (equally unsafe because of pedestrians, poles, abrupt endings, driveway crossings and unmarked road crossings), or simply be slaved to their chauffeur parents, but I agree that I see many youth operating bikes incredibly dangerously, largely due to lack of experience. What have you all found to be effective educational solutions for those lacking vehicular road experience? What have you heard other locales doing to educate these cyclists with no motor vehicle experience?

    Can a city or state require its school system to educate all students with rudimentary bike safety knowledge and practice (say, as a PE, health or social studies unit)? Forget SOLs and have a week to teach kids how not to get killed on the street. Thoughts?

    • Renee says:

      Good points & questions.

    • Thanh says:

      Good points Nicholas. I had never really thought about asking young people to follow the rules of the road, when they haven’t learned it through the drivers license process yet.

      Here are a few lessons geared towards kids and also the general public that I know of (these were highlighted in the City’s Bicycle Friendly Community Award application this past February):

      * The Harrisonburg Fire Department and Safe Kids of the Central Shenandoah Valley teaches bicycle and pedestrian safety to all third grade classrroms as part of the Risk Watch Program. Classes are also taught in middle school physical education classes.

      * Three years ago Safe Kids received a grant an gave out 4,000 bicycle helmets to all children in city schools. Safe Kids continues to give out helmets as needed and for two years have given helmets to each child receiving a bicycle for Christmas from the Salvation Army Toy Drive (approximately 100 helmets each year). – The Harrisonburg Rockingham Metropolitan Organization has since then also funded about 200 helmets that have been donated to Safe Kids for distribution and also to JMU Earth Club for No Drive Day raffles.

      * Safe Kids also hosts a Summer Safety Tour that travels to low-income housing neighborhoods to talk with families about safety. Bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicular safety are included in the program. This
      program has been going on for about 5 years and has been very successful as the program is being taken to the people rather than requiring people to travel elsewhere.

      *There is a collaborative group of government agencies, health professionals, schools, and local non-profits that collaborate to put on the “Walk Smart, Bike Smart” display in September of each year at the Harrisonburg International Festival. In past years, they have included bicycle helmet giveaways and fittings, bicycle safety quizzes for bicyclists and motorists, and red flashing safety strobe lights. Notably, the bicycle safety quizzes are translated into Spanish. Over 6,000 people attend this event.

      * Since 2007, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization (HRMPO)’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Education Committee has funded radio PSAs on several local radio stations throughout the year. In 2009, when a new Spanish-speaking radio station began airing in the community (La GranD), the committee put some of its funding towards placing radio PSAs on this station in addition to the other English speaking stations. (La GranD is no longer on the air today though.)

      Everyone involved in bicycling advocacy that I have spoken with, I think, would agree that there is much more for “us” (collectively) to do to educate. There needs to be a variety of messages, targeted to a variety of audiences, and put out in a variety of ways.

      As I have been working with Waterman Elementary School, as part of developing the School Travel Plan for the Safe Routes to School Grant, the school principal and the PE teacher involved in the project did agree to include short quick messaging type lessons into their curriculum about bike and pedestrian safety. It wasn’t required by any higher authority, but everyone thought it was a good idea.

      I also think that parent involvement in educating children is also crucial, which we also had much discussion about while developing the project. I believe that parents play a role in and are responsible for teaching their children how to ride their bicycles safely. So maybe messaging to parents, to reach the kids is one of the variety of methods too.

      I’ll be posting a story about the Waterman SRTS grant and the Safe Routes to School grant soon and perhaps there will more other folks who chime in on this topic.

  2. Renee says:

    On a related note, I saw what looked like a class of kids and a couple teachers leaving the THMS entrance on bikes today (on the sidewalk). Looked neat! Was it part of P.E.? A biking class? A field trip? Anyone know?

  3. David Miller says:

    Just to share my own learning process. When I was young my mother actively explained how the rules of the road worked wherever we drove. Even back in Elementary school she let me help her shift gears which helped me understand not only shifting but how to maintain speed with your transmission. Along the way I learned the rules. Also being made aware of how crazy some drivers are, made me a much safer biker for Middle and High school. Easier to start when they’re young, before they can bike to school.

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