Rob Erickson

November 2015 to By law, Minnesota residents must be 15 years of age before they can apply for a learner's permit and get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. However, as Rob Erickson and his colleagues on the Bike Edina Task Force will be the first to remind you, young people need to know road safety basics long before they enroll in drivers ed.

"Before they're driving cars, kids usually master riding their bikes," he explained. From a road safety standpoint, they become full-fledged members of Edina's multimodal travel community as soon as the training wheels come off. In 2009, in recognition of that fact, Erickson spearheaded a Bike Edina Task Force (BETF) initiative to bring annual "bike rodeos" to Edina schoolchildren.
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"We came across the idea in a set of recommendations set forth by the League of American Bicyclists for communities interested in achieving that organization's ‘Bicycle Friendly Community' designation," Erickson remembered.

At its core, "a bike rodeo is essentially just a fun way for children to learn - and practice - basic safety skills." During a typical two-hour clinic, volunteer bicycle instructors man about 10 stations themed to different aspects of bike safety. Children are encouraged to roam between stations and test out what they learn in real time and under adult supervision.

Erickson and fellow task force member Larry Olson solicited several community partnerships to help make these events a success. Representatives from at least one local bike shop were on hand at each session to offer free helmet fittings and bike tune-ups. Other organizations contributed prizes for giveaways.

In total, the BETF coordinated four rodeo events across town over many years: at Highlands Elementary School in 2010 and 2011, and at Cornelia Elementary School in 2012 and 2013.

In September 2015, organizers of the City of Edina's inaugural "Open Streets on 50th" neighborhood celebration decided to revive the bike rodeo concept. Although Erickson had officially rotated off of the Bike Edina Task Force in 2014, he jumped at the chance to again play a leading role.

"The bike rodeo at 50th and France was similar to the BETF bike rodeos before it," he said, though the opportunity to bike on a stretch of road usually reserved for vehicular traffic added a new and fun dimension. "We used chalk lines to mark out each course station."

Erickson appreciated the strong turnout by both kids and their parents, and sees it as a harbinger of good things to come. "Until recently, biking on sidewalks was illegal in Edina ... Events like the rodeos show just how far [we are] coming. We are [on our way] to a point where drivers and bicycles can really co-exist in Edina, and do so safely."