This week, the tennis courts at Revere Park (2509 W. Irving Park Rd.) are alive with the sound of skidding tires instead of thwacking balls, having been transformed into a cycling course for Bike Camp while a group of young riders practice their turn signals, emergency braking and other critical skills.
“We’re getting them ready to ride on the streets,” said Devonte Sims, as he put the cyclists through their paces. Sims is one of two Bicycling Ambassadors coaching the 14 participants, aged 10 to 15. He and Doug Burk devised a “course,” which consisted largely of chalk drawings, to teach the youngsters how to dodge obstacles such as potholes or to stop suddenly to avoid a car door while maintaining balance.
“A bike lets them explore the world,” said Burk of his charges. “It gives them a whole lot of freedom without a carbon footprint.”
At the midway point of the session, the campers, who began the week with varying levels of experience, were clearly gaining comfort on two wheels. “I feel confident,” said 13-year-old Aldair Espinoza, a student at Murphy Elementary, after learning how to use turning signals.
“I haven’t known half this stuff,” added Yulianee Cruz, who attends Cleveland Elementary. She was particularly excited that each camper would go home with a brand new Schwinn at the end of the week. “I had a little bike and I couldn’t use it anymore.”
Bicycling Ambassadors aim to encourage more Chicagoans to ride their bikes and to ride them safely. The youth camp is a pilot program operated through the cooperation of the Chicago Park District, the Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club and the 47th Ward office. The week of training will culminate in a ride to Wrigley Field along a “mellow” route.
“Right now is the perfect age to get them into good habits,” said Burk, who also works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square. The message: “Be a pro,” as in don’t blow through stoplights, don’t ride on sidewalks and don’t ride against traffic on one-way streets.
Come to think of it, we know more than a few adults who could benefit from bike camp too.