Like riding a bike: Pedal Factory events create safe space to improve skills

Published 12:10 am Thursday, July 13, 2023

SALISBURY — Few things are as sacred to childhood as riding a bike, so the Salisbury-based Pedal Factory is hosting events throughout Rowan County to ensure local kids get that experience.

Let’s Ride Rowan is The Pedal Factory’s initiative to get all of Rowan County moving on two wheels. Through a series of weekend events, which began on Saturday, representatives from the organization will be traveling around the county with their mobile workshop, bringing bike repair, learn-to-ride lessons, bike-safety rodeos and family-friendly group rides with them.

The parking lot at Essie Academy was converted into an obstacle course on Saturday as part of the event. Rowan Rockhounds Cycling Club member Benny Rathbun, 12, was taking advantage of the opportunity.

“We normally ride trails at Salisbury Community Park over on Hurley School Road,” Rathbun said. “I practice on my own, but I have never done anything like this in a parking lot before.”

Rathbun, who has been riding with the club for about a year, said that practicing on the obstacle course Saturday helps prepare him for trails by enhancing his balance and ability to perform sharp turns.

Mary Rosser is the director at The Pedal Factory.

“We’re focusing on skills and safety,” Rosser said. “Our learn-to-ride is set up here to help kids balance and learn the basics of balance before they progress to pedaling. We really focus on wearing helmets, so we are giving out helmets to anyone who doesn’t have one.

“As far as the obstacle course, we are trying to teach some more skills. It looks like some of these kids have some skills already that they showed up with.”

Rosser wants the children to have fun, but safety remains paramount.

“It’s just mainly about awareness and being aware of their surroundings,” Rosser said. “When there are all sorts of stuff going on, and kids aren’t paying attention, that is when stuff can happen. We’re trying to teach them to pay attention to each other.”

Unlike Rathbun, some of the riders were still pretty young.

Shannon Jackson didn’t know that her nine-year-old daughter Koresa could ride without training wheels.

“When we are at home, she rides her bike, but she has been riding it with training wheels,” Jackson said. “We said when you get to a certain age, we are going to take the training wheels off.”

Jackson’s daughter had been hesitant to try it without the training wheels, but the event on Saturday proved the perfect training ground to do so.

“I left to go get her brother, and when I pulled up, she was riding the bike with no training wheels,” Jackson said. “I said, OK, girl. It was a proud moment for me because we thought she couldn’t ride.”

Jackson didn’t want to miss out on the fun. She hopped on a bike, too.

“I just did it cause the kids wanted me to,” Jackson said with a laugh. “It was great to have family time. I’m about the family time, so this was good.”

They live in Salisbury at an apartment complex with a long sidewalk where Korsea can ride her bike safely, but Jackson appreciated the formal instruction opportunity.

Gina Tafari’s son, Ausar Tafari, 5, was also still getting his wheels underneath him.

“His auntie bought him a bike,” Tafari said. “We took the training wheels off. He was scared, but I just let him go. He got frustrated when I tried to teach him. He is really independent. So I just let him go, and he just learned. He was so happy.”

Simpson lives on a cul-de-sac, so it’s a safe place to let Carter experiment with riding, but there is a hill.

“This parking lot is much flatter,” Tafari said.

The children went on a group bike ride down the street as part of the event.

“We’ll go about a half mile down and turn around for about a mile total to show people how to ride safely as a group and on the street,” Rosser said. “Using the proper technique for stopping at stop signs and hand signals when we want to make a turn. Safety is the priority, but we want them to have fun, and we want to give them something to do outside on a Saturday.”

Rosser said that the program was made possible through a grant.

“We applied for a grant to do these at different locations,” Rosser said. “This is our downtown, and then we will do four more … it’s about taking what we do into different parts of the county, bringing awareness, promoting the event and sharing about the Pedal Factory programs. We’re always downtown.”

The next one will be at Dan Nicholas Park at 6800 Bringle Ferry Road in Salisbury on Sept. 9 from 9 a.m.-noon. The following event will be held at the Spencer Town Hall parking lot at 460 S. Salisbury Ave. in Spencer on Oct. 14 from 9 a.m.-noon.