Students at Forest Lawn High School in Calgary have been welding new bike racks this year to help prevent bike theft.
Aidan Boniface said he’s a big fan of riding his bike to school.
“It’s easier,” said Boniface, who is graduating from high school this year. “It’s a lot more independent and you don’t pay for gas and you notice the things around you more.”
And this year Boniface has been able to bring his bike inside after the assistant principal — who also commutes by bike — decided to take action to prevent bike theft.
“In my time here at Forest Lawn High School, with the racks out front, they were always just kind of ignored and dilapidated and just sitting there,” Mark Anderson, Forest Lawn High School’s assistant principal, said. “Bikes (were) being stolen during the day at our bike racks from people outside of the school.”
So the decision was made to move these racks indoors. Now, not only are the fixtures prominently displayed near the front doors, they have also seen some student-made upgrades.
The old models were only meant to hold a bike upright and put a lock around a wheel. The new rack, however, allows space for the frame of the bike to also be locked securely in place.
“Bike theft — or the risk of bike theft — is a huge issue,” said Laura Shutiak, the executive director of Youth En Route.
“At some schools, up to 80 per cent of kids told us that was one of the reasons they didn’t ride to school.”
Youth En Route’s goal is to take down the barriers that prevent kids from riding bikes while promoting healthy lifestyle choices.
“We are trying to make it easier for kids and bring down those barriers to make this healthy and sustainable choice,” Shutiak said.
Shutiak managed to secure a grant, some donated materials and some student welders to make the new racks for the school — which so far have seen a positive response from students.
“I thought it was great,” said grade 12 student Chance Birthwright. “I thought it was a good opportunity. I really like the welding program and the bike racks were an extra thing on the side and it was really interesting.”
The welding students have made two racks for Forest Lawn and several more for both Lester B. Pearson High School.
“I took a picture in late May of 2021 at Pearson and there are two bikes on an old bike rack,” Shutiak said. “This year on the same kind of day in May, that bike rack was full.”
Students also have access to free locks and chains that they can borrow from the “lock library” so they don’t have to haul a heavy lock to school.
“I think with teenagers there is a huge cool factor. Kids don’t see riding your bike as something other kids do,” Shutiak said. “The minute we can get more of this happening, I see it snowballing.
“I think kids will realize that they don’t have to wait around for a bus or a ride and they can be autonomous and independent. This is really empowering for lots of kids.”
Boniface, who was also involved in the welding project, said he’s pleased that students coming to Forest Lawn High School will be able to use the new and improved racks in the future.
“I think the racks are a lot easier to use and ours have been moved inside and that’s really improved everything a lot more,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot more bikes on the bike rack.”