What a simple bike can do for kids

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Teens from the Major Taylor Project will bicycle 200 miles on July 9 and 10 from Seattle to Portland

Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation program
shows what a simple bike can do for kids

Who: Teenagers participating in Cascade Bicycle Club’s Major Taylor Project
What: Biking the 200-mile Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic
When: Saturday, June 9 and Sunday June 10, 2011

Twenty-five teenagers from Seattle Urban Academy/Union Gospel Mission, Chief Sealth High School, Evergreen Campus and Global Connections High School, along with teachers, program leaders and volunteers, will bicycle 200 miles from Seattle to Portland on July 9 and 10. For many of the teens, this will be their first trip out of state and the longest bike ride of their lives. Their journey to Portland started long before the Group Health Seattle to Portland start line.

Anu Ani’s family emigrated from Nigeria in 2008 so that his father could attend school. Ani, 18 and a senior at Evergreen in White Center, has embraced cycling, saying it has offered him an opportunity to see his city in a new way. This will be his third STP.

“Riding bikes is in my blood. I love it for exercise,” Ani said. “I like to talk about what we did, where we went, what we saw. Riding STP is fun, and I don't want to miss it because I meet a lot of people, see other people riding bikes and hear their stories. I like to hear other people’s stories. I am most excited about riding with my friends. It's like two-day vacation.”

In early 2009, the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation launched the Major Taylor Project to reach teens in underserved communities and provide access to the many benefits of cycling. Several students have never owned a bike, much less a bike with gears. Most have never explored their communities and know only their commute from home to school.

To prepare and train for the big event, the teens have ridden many miles around their communities, including the Flying Wheels Summer Century in east King County, Vashon Island, and the south end of Lake Washington loop.

Moises Torres, 17 and a senior at Global Connection High School Des Moines, is also back for a third STP. He says he initially got involved because his teachers and mentors were involved with cycling.

“It's good for community and environment,” Torres said. “It's different on a bike than in a car. Things slow down, and you get to see what’s going on around you instead of zooming by in a car. It gives me better perspective of what's going on around me.”

Growing up in Seattle, Torres has long been interested in aviation and aerospace. After this school year, Torres is headed for the Air Force Academy.

Riding the STP exemplifies what is possible through the Major Taylor Project. The program empowers youth through bicycling by helping them establish a goal and by providing the tools and support to achieve it. The experience has a lasting impact.

Linda Ba, age 18 and salutatorian of Evergreen’s Health Sciences and Human Services High School graduating class this year, is no stranger to hard work. But cycling brought something new to her life. “I tell people that I cycle, and they're like, ‘You do what? What is that?’ I can show it off,” Ba said. “Racing the boys is fun. It's the same on a bike. The bikes are an equalizer, and everyone's the same... no boys vs. the girls.”

Ba is riding in her third STP, but this year, her 15-year-old sister ZaZa is joining her for the first time.

“I feel like I need to take care of her, educate her,” she said. “I feel more responsible and I want her to have fun. I'm excited to share it with her.''

Being involved with the Major Taylor Project and bicycling has broadened Ba’s horizons. She is looking forward to college at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the fall. Still, she has a deep connection to her community.

“Every kid in White Center is talented and worth investing in,” she said.

How would she make an impact if money were no object?  “I’d bring coaches, leaders, businesses that teach kids skills, invest in the arts, athletics, the high school, and the middle schools especially."

She added: "There's so much to do in White Center.”

Major Taylor Project - Seattle (revised) from Fox Wilmar Productions on Vimeo.

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About Cascade Bicycle Club
Founded in 1970, Cascade Bicycle Club is a 14,000+ member, nonprofit organization based in Seattle, Washington, serving more than half a million cyclists in the Puget Sound community. The club is operated by a volunteer Board of Directors, 28 professional staff and thousands of volunteers. More information about Cascade Bicycle Club’s advocacy, commute, education and riding programs is available online at www.cascade.org or by calling (206) 522-3222.

The Major Taylor Project was started by Cascade Bicycle Club in 2009, with initial support from King County Metro and Group Health. Named after Marshall “Major” Taylor, the turn-of-the-last-century African-American U.S. and world bicycle sprint champion, the project is focused on introducing young people from diverse communities to the sport of cycling and creating an inclusive culture of bicycling that will continue to future generations. Full program information can be found online at: http://cbcef.org/youth-major-taylor.html

Tuesday, July 5, 9:30 a.m., Lincoln Park before Vashon Island Ride
Friday, July 8, 6:30 p.m., Cascade Bicycle Club, Magnuson Park
Saturday, July 9 6 a.m., STP start line

M.J. Kelly
Cascade Bicycle Club
Director of Communications and Marketing
m: (206) 853-2188