Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for most people.
The experience is flush with pavement scrapes, false starts and, perhaps, training wheels long past the time they’re needed. But once they come off, and a child learns to balance on two wheels, the world is never the same.
That’s what the nonprofit Kids on Bikes hopes to honor during Saturday’s The Great Bicycle Carnival, a free minifestival aimed at kids at El Pomar Youth Bike Park.
“It instills a sense of independence, freedom and joy that we as adults remember experiencing,” said Kids on Bikes Executive Director Daniel Byrd about the importance of bike riding. “And yet more than 50 percent of kids in lower-income neighborhoods don’t have access to rideable bikes.”
Almost 100 kids of all ages and 50 adults showed up to last year’s event. Now in its sixth year, the festival will feature group rides through the neighborhood around the park, the Mobile Music Project with music and kid-pedaled karaoke, gymnastic mats, games, bird watching, vendors, free Popsicles and more.
Those who don’t own bikes are welcome to check out a bicycle from the Kids on Bikes bike library.
“It’s a simple, fun, laid-back kind of day,” said Byrd.
The carnival was started as a fundraiser for the nonprofit, which partners with schools, community centers and other organizations on free earn-a-bike programs. Children who complete the weekslong program are rewarded with their own bike. More than 1,500 bikes have been donated since the organization was founded in 2005 to provide ongoing access to bikes, opportunities to ride and education for safe cycling.
“Kids learn bike safety and how to ride,” said Byrd, “and earn a bike at the end with a helmet, lock, patch kit — everything they need to be a good steward of the bicycle.”
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM