This isn’t your typical bicycle rodeo.
When youths complete the Bicycle Education And Registration program, they are equipped with bicycle safety lessons, teaching them how to ride safely in a variety of environments. The participants are also taught repair skills, working on bicycles that have been donated to or confiscated by the Sheriff’s Department.
And when the five-week program is done, they get more than just a diploma: They get to keep the bike they’ve been working on.
BEAR is a groundbreaking curriculum that has been taught to various deputies at Youth Activity League centers around the County, so they can, in turn, present the program to the youths who participate in their YAL programs. As a result, the BEAR program has been taught to children at a variety of locations throughout Los Angeles County.
And, here’s a little secret: There’s more to it than just riding and fixing bicycles.
“It’s not just about the bike. The bike is the avenue that we use to take the kids where we want them to go. We basically use the format of a bicycle education class to build a mentorship with kids,” says Senior Deputy Ken Yanecko.
BEAR includes safety tips and fun, hands-on work, as the youths are taught not only how to properly ride a bike, but also keep it in operating condition. Simultaneously, they are taught about making good life choices, and they get to know the sheriff’s deputies in a new context.
Many of the approximately 450 youths age 8 to 18 who complete the program each year otherwise might not afford a bicycle, and without BEAR, they’d be more susceptible to the dangers of unsafe riding in urban environments.
Something as simple as a bicycle can also form very strong connections for the kids. Who doesn’t remember having a bike as a kid? For many children, BEAR provides them that gift, which they otherwise may not have.
“We are opening up a portal in life that these kids will remember forever,” Yanecko says. “The benefits that come out of this program happen daily, the kids that you see blossom right before your eyes. It changes lives. It’s awesome.”