As my kids and I pulled into our driveway with our “bike train” the other day we struck up a conversation with someone passing by. We talked about bicycling and also met for the first time as neighbors. They were new to the neighborhood and it turns out we have a lot in common. We talked about having a BBQ together.
On another summer evening my family was biking through our neighborhood. We ran into some friends who live a couple of streets away. We ended up having an impromptu street gathering and set up fun bike obstacle courses for our kids with cones and other objects. We laughed, played, learned and strengthened our sense of community.
Both of these are examples of how bicycling has helped us connect with our neighbors. Bicycling brings us outside our houses and into the streets and gives us a chance to build social capital with those who live closest to us. For many, riding a bike is fun and having fun with others is a great way to grow positive relationships.
On August 4th many neighborhoods in Fort Collins will celebrate Neighborhood Night Out (NNO), an evening that encourages neighbors to get together at events large and small to celebrate community-building and safety. This summer, consider strengthening your neighborhood connections by incorporating the fun of bike riding into your gatherings such as NNO. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- The FC Bikes Bicycle Ambassador Program and Safe Routes to School are partnering to offer bike-related programming at one lucky neighborhood’s NNO event. The programming may include a bike obstacle course, helmet giveaways, helmet decorating, bike safety checks and more. Neighborhoods can apply online at: http://bit.ly/1Igh24f. Applications are due July 17.
- Set up your own bike obstacle course. A line of cones are fun for weaving in and out. Chalk is useful for drawing a pathway. Tennis balls cut in half make great pathway markers that can be biked over and won’t throw most riders off balance.
- Have people demonstrate hand signals for a small prize. Information about bicycling hand signals can be found on the League of American Bicyclist’s website: org/content/signaling.
- Encourage people to decorate their helmets and have everyone vote on their favorite. Have all the contestants ride in a bike parade with their decorated helmets.
- Find someone in your neighborhood who is savvy with bike mechanics. Ask him or her to do minor adjustments on people’s bikes to keep everyone rolling smoothly.
- Contact FC Bikes for bicycle safety and educational materials to distribute at your gathering, such as FC Bikes’ brand new bike map.
- Consider bringing your neighborhood gathering to the next Open Streets event on September 20 where you can participate in many healthy activities or just enjoy a picnic in the street! Visit fcgov.com/openstreets for more details.
Even if your neighborhood doesn’t have a formal gathering planned this summer you can still get out and enjoy the warmer weather on two wheels. As you cruise around invite others to join you and let the good times roll!
Jamie Gaskill-Fox is a program specialist for the City of Fort Collins FC Bikes program and coordinates the Bicycle Ambassador Program (bicycleambassadorprogram.org). She is also a League Cycling Instructor and a member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Education Coalition.