Stephon Daniels started riding bikes when he was six years old. He’s owned five different bikes so far and never wants a car because of their negative impact on the environment.
Daniels, an 11 year old eighth-grader at St. Malachy School, was given his sixth bike as a surprise from Temple University Campus Safety Services on Saturday at a bike donation event at the STAR Complex. He was just one of 200 children from North Philadelphia area schools who received the bikes as a reward for participating in an after-school bike safety program hosted by Campus Safety Services.
The students and their families showed up to the event expecting bike helmets and “a surprise.” State Sen. Sharif Street spoke briefly about the bike safety program when a tarpaulin was raised and revealed the bikes. Students then excitedly ran over to them and found each of their names on a bike.
The bike safety program was started to promote a healthy lifestyle and road safety among kids while riding their bikes, according to Gloria West, a Temple Police officer who teaches the program St. Malachy School. The program teaches students about traffic laws, how to perform bike safety checks and the importance of wearing helmets.
Malayjah Lockridge, an eight-year-old second grader at Paul L. Dunbar School also participated in the bike safety program at her school and said the most interesting part was learning about hand signals.
“It feels good to see something positive going on in the neighborhood, in the community with the children,” said Lorraine Brown, Lockridge’s mother who lives on 12th Street near Thompson. “It gives them something different, they don’t have to be running around all the time, you can ride a bike.”
The bike safety program, which started ten years ago, was held at three schools this year: St. Malachy School, Tanner G. Duckrey Elementary School and Paul L. Dunbar School. For the last three years, students who participated were rewarded with bike helmets after completing the program.
This year, Philip Richards, a member of the Board of Trustees, donated to the program to give the children bikes and helmets. Richards’ Minnesota-based financial company, North Star Resource Group, has a foundation that surprises kids with bikes since 2004.
One Day At A Time, a North-Philadelphia substance use recovery program, donated another 20 bikes.
“I believe it’s important for children to have these assets and access to these things because in the city, there’s bikes everywhere,” said Captain Eileen Bradley, a Temple Police community liaison who coordinates the bike safety program. “Especially in this part of the city, [it’s important] that the children know bike safety.”
She added that the program is an avenue for her to give back to the children and the community.
“I wanted to know how bike safety is so when I’m riding a bike, I know how to be safe,” Daniels said.
Rozina McFadden, Daniels’ grandmother, who accompanied him to the event, said she never lets him ride his bike without a helmet, so the bike safety program helped him expand his bike safety knowledge.
“Usually kids that I see riding bikes, they ride without helmets, and then they get hit and they have to go to the hospital because they have their heads messed up or something like that,” Daniels said.
West said the program and the bike surprise meant a lot to the students and their families.
“They are excited about the fact that they’ve got the bikes,” she said. “One parent said that it’s a blessing because her son’s bike got stolen. She got him another bike and that broke down and for a bicycle to show up at this time, that makes me happy too.”