Why I ride with the Major Taylor Project
By Scott Birdseye, Spanaway Middle School Teacher
In my 10 years of classroom teaching, I have never taught a lesson as successful, fulfilling or fun as the one I taught this year in the parking lot of Lincoln High School.
For 90 minutes, I rode a bike next to a high school student named Adrian Robinson. When we began, Adrian couldn't coast down an incline without panicking and pulling his brakes. He was an eager learner though, and we reset and tried again so many times my head spun. He ran into fences a lot and got pretty good at not crashing when he came to a sudden stop, instead putting his bike down and stepping out rather than fall with it. He peddled, then dragged his feet along the ground, then peddled backwards, but mostly pushed himself around by running his feet along the ground. He ran into fences some more and almost hit a parked truck a few times...
But Adrian never gave up.
Not when he fell, not when he ran into the fence, not when others — who had just ridden to the nearby park, played bike polo, and ridden back — were watching, and not when his hands and legs were sore and cold from being outside and working so much for first the time on a bike.
After 90 minutes, this young man rode a bike.
And then he peddled across a parking lot and ALMOST made a turn. Then he did it again, and again, and again. The rest of the students cheered him on as he rode the length of the parking lot and back.
I helped a young man open his world, I helped him learn to ride a bike.
In the weeks following, we have been working on confidence, balance and coordination. We’ve struggled in traffic, walked down hills and stopped short on hills. His bike skills are improving though, and we completed a nine-mile ride last week.
In July, I want to ride across the Seattle to Portland finish line with him. I am looking forward to watching his confidence grow and helping him realize how small the grand city of Tacoma really is.
I started riding with the Major Taylor Project last year. My wife and I were introduced to the project coordinators at the Seattle Bike Swap and fell in love. We quickly found MTP Tacoma at Lincoln High School and Stewart Middle School. The students at Lincoln quickly found a way into our hearts — and their hopes and dreams have become our own.
Students like Adrian are why I ride with MTP. His story makes me proud of what we do.
Winter is here, and that means Build-a-Bike for the Major Taylor Project! Adrian will soon build his own, customized, bike — and he will be able to ride it through to spring, summer and beyond! Help Adrian and students like him with a gift to Major Taylor Project today.