On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Gloria and I volunteered at the 50 Bikes for 50 Kids, an event organized by the North Natomas Transportation Management Association (TMA) and held at Natomas Middle School.
At 50 Bikes for 50 Kids, the North Natomas TMA chooses 50 well-deserving children to receive a new bicycle. Community members nominate the children based on their character traits: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. At the event, a pair of community volunteers and a qualified bicycle mechanic help a child build his or her bike. After finishing the build, the child gets a helmet, along with education on how to fit and wear the helmet, and a u-lock, along with education on how to lock his or her bike (compliments of Jim Brown, Executive Director for the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates). A volunteer from the police department helps each child register his or her bike. When each child finishes, he or she can ride the bike through a “skills” course (something Jim Brown came up with). The kids loved the skills course, because it meant they finally got to try out their new bike!
Gloria and I walked away incredibly impressed by the event and by North Natomas TMA as an organization. The event is fun for the kids, with music and snacks. The education element is especially impressive and so is the list of supporters, including the Natomas Bike Shop, who donated all of the bikes.
The North Natomas TMA, as an organization, is a nonprofit organization with the mission to foster transportation behaviors that enhance placemaking in Sacramento’s Natomas neighborhood through advocacy, programs, education, and services. It offers a commuter shuttle into downtown Sacramento ($1.50 each way), ride matching, and a 3-hour bicycle safety course for adults. It also provides a lot of information on bicycle routes throughout the Natomas area and beyond. However, its youth programs are most impressive of all. Among other programs, it organizes bicycle and pedestrian safety classes for elementary and middle school children. It also has a program where students who walk or ride a bike to school get points and can win prizes with those points. The North Natomas TMA is an excellent example of the things communities can do, on their own, to improve bicycling and walking in neighborhoods. “Education” is an oft stated solution to many challenges with bicycling.
I cannot say enough good things about the event. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day to remember a great civil rights leader and reflect on civil rights, the civil rights movement, and racial equality, but it is also a day of service. As Gloria often says, quoting Muhammed Ali – “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”