Paonia students who ride bikes to school now have access to a repair station at both Paonia Elementary and Junior-Senior high schools, thanks to a grant from Action for Healthy Kids.
As part of National Walk To School Day, elementary school students who walked or biked to school Oct. 7, which was also National Walk to School Day, were treated to prizes and other incentives, also courtesy of the grant.
Junior high teacher Ellie Roberts wrote the $5,000 grant, which was one of five awarded in the state through the Colorado Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School. SRTS "uses a comprehensive approach to make school routes safe for children" who walk or bike to school. The Town of Paonia acted as the pass-through agent for the reimbursable grant.
The 74 elementary school students who walked and biked to school Wednesday represented 37 percent of the student body, said PES principal Sam Cox. Of those, 31 rode bikes, which is about twice the number of bikes at school compared to a typical day.
After school, parent Kaspar Keil demonstrated how to use the repair station, and how to fix a flat caused by a goat head sticker, which frequently happens in the area.
Keil, whose family is relatively new to the area, is a former bike distributor and repair shop owner. When he saw the repair station at PES, which was installed in mid-September, he offered his services.
Repair stations include a bike stand, permanently-affixed tools, and a pump and pressure gauge. Students who participated in the demonstration were given patch kits and tubes, which will also be available for emergencies at the school office.
"This is what it's all about," said Keil, who sees the stations as filling a need in the community. He also plans to offer more simple repair demonstrations in the future.
Roberts said the repair stations are designed for more urban environments by the Bike Fixation company in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Parts vending machines were also an option, but that didn't seem to fit the rural North Fork area, said Roberts.
When she moved here with her family two years ago, there was no bike shop. But combined with the addition in 2014 of the Paonia Bike Co-op and this summer's opening of Shish KaBikes, access to parts and support is very accessible. The junior high school is also planning to incorporate minor bicycle repairs into its Life Skills class, said Roberts.
Safety remains the No. 1 concern, said Keil, who gave extra credit to students wearing helmets. He said he can't stress enough the importance of wearing helmets.