Strathcona Bike Smart – Building Community and Safety – Vancouver Police Foundation
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Strathcona Bike Smart – Building Community and Safety

While working in the Strathcona neighbourhood last summer, VPD Constables Nathan Johre and Chris Birkett saw kids of all ages and backgrounds simply having fun and being kids. They often encountered kids that were out for bike rides with their family or friends. But there was also something concerning they noticed amongst the young cyclists – many of them were not wearing helmets. This concern prompted the duo to develop and launch a brand new community program, Strathcona Bike Smart, as a way to lend support, promote safety and connect the neighbourhood families together.

“When patrolling Strathcona, I noticed so many of kids had a shared interest in riding bikes; however, I also noticed that many of the kids didn’t have helmets,” explains Nathan.

“From there, Chris and I developed the idea for this program, as a way to not only provide the needed safety equipment, skills, and knowledge to the kids, but also to bring kids from different demographics together and build on their sense of community through this shared interest.”

With funding from the Vancouver Police Foundation, Strathcona Bike Smart became a reality this summer. Over two full days in July and August, 60 kids between the ages of 5-12 and their families were invited for a free outdoor event that included a full day of instruction as VPD bike instructors taught bicycle skills and VPD traffic officer taught rules of the road. All participants received complimentary lunch and snacks AND every child received an incredible package of bike safety equipment including a new bike helmet, bell, reflectors, USB bike lights, and a bike lock. Canadian Tire was able to provide a substantial discount to these products, meaning savings from the Strathcona Bike Smart program can be allocated to other VPD community-building initiatives.

“As soon as we opened registration, my email was flooded and we actually had a waitlist of kids wanting to participate,” explains Chris. “Thankfully with such a huge team effort from VPD bikes, traffic, and the Police Foundation, we were able to bring it all together and both days were a huge success!”

The Strathcona neighbourhood has seen its fair share of changes over the last decade, and most significantly over the last two years with calls for VPD service dramatically on the rise. “It was really important to us to launch this program in the Strathcona area, since that was where we saw the need first-hand,” says Nathan.

“While delivering the program, we also connected with families and built relationships not only between the police and this vulnerable community, but also between the families themselves.”

Overall, Strathcona Bike Smart was a huge success and both Chris and Nathan couldn’t be happier with how both sessions went. It was evident that the two sessions were very impactful for all participants and their families. They even had a couple of kids who didn’t even know how to ride a bike when they arrived in the morning, but by the afternoon, with help from Chris and Nathan and VPD’s bike instructors, they were riding on their own.

“We saw a ton of smiles and so many of the kids came up to us afterwards to thank us. We also had several parents reach out to say how much fun their kids had and how they talked about it the entire way home,” explains Chris.

“We hope they not only learned something, but also made some new friends along the way,” adds Nathan.

Looking ahead to summer 2023, Chris and Nathan plan to host Strathcona Bike Smart once again with hopes of being able support even more kids and families over three full day sessions.

If you would like to donate to support more children and families in the Strathcona neighbourhood, or to support any other VPD-initiated community program, please donate online or call us at 604.717.3700. Gifts of all sizes can make a difference.