For so many people, summer brings back nostalgic childhood memories of riding a bike. Boston has a newly announced program that's looking to bring that joy to more young people all over the city.
Let's Get Rolling is an initiative by the Highland Street Foundation, in partnership with the city of Boston, which will give children ages 4 to 13 bikes and biking lessons at 15 locations throughout the city. The program aims to help young people stay healthy while having fun, and give them the freedom to explore Boston.
Conversations with the city began in early spring around Boston's Connect, Learn and Explore initiative, where the city seeks to provide free extracurricular activities to it's youth, said Noreen McMahon, the senior director of programs at the Highland Street Foundation.
"The learning to ride a bike piece came about, and we were talking about how they were going to pilot a program this summer," McMahon said. "We have a lot of relationships with community organizations in the city of Boston, and so we came up with this idea that we would help enhance their programing by partnering with a number of our community centers."
These partnerships have been critical for Let's Get Rolling to become reality, she said. A variety of childcare locations such as Neighborhood Villages, Ellis Early Learning, Epiphany School, East Boston Social Centers, Horizons for Homeless Children, as well as the Boston Centers for Youth and Families and various YMCAs have all agreed to pilot the program at their locations, giving it a presence in every Boston neighborhood.
In addition to hosting biking lessons, various community organizations have contributed in other ways. Boston Children's Hospital's Project Safe Kids, for instance, has donated bike helmets. Bikes Not Bombs, a community organization that uses biking as a vehicle for social change, is providing the biking lessons.
The impact of Let's Get Rolling is something that McMahon said goes beyond meeting the basic needs that a child has.
"There's also these other factors that are important to children's childhood, like learning how to swim and learning how to ride a bike,” she said.
And the benefits of biking go beyond just being a useful skill.
"It just provides a lot of joy,” McMahon said. “It gets them out of the house, away from the screens. It's a social activity you can do with your friends and it's something that every kid should have the opportunity to do."