Most children learn to ride a bike on a neighborhood street or nearby park or school. The focus is on learning balance, steering, stopping, control and the sheer joy of that first ride! But where do kids learn the safety tips of riding especially in proximity to other riders, pedestrians and motor vehicles? In many places around the world, there are places called “Traffic Gardens”, “Safety Towns” or “Bike Playgrounds” which are small-scale courses with roadways, sidewalks, crossings, intersections, etc. where children can learn safe biking and walking in a safe and fun environment. Some are simple courses painted on asphalt while others like Safety Town in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore are miniature towns with buildings, stop lights and other 3 dimensional objects. “Bike Rodeos” temporarily set up with chalk, cones and other devices have been provided by Anne Arundel County Police Bike Patrol, Annapolis Police Bike Patrol, BikeAAA, PedalPowerKids and other organizations around the county. BikeAAA set a goal in 2018 to create Anne Arundel County’s first permanent Bike Safety Playground and launched an initiative to find a location, design, build and make it open to the public and also available for safety education programs.
AACPS STEM Projects
In the fall of 2018, a team of three AACPS eleventh grade STEM Students took on the challenge to detail the idea and develop a course design. The team met with a variety of mentors including people from BikeAAA, PedalPowerKids, Anne Arundel Recreation & Parks and Anne Arundel Police Bike Patrol. They also researched course layouts from locations around the country and developed an excellent course design using CAD software.
In 2019, another AACPS STEM team took on the task of creating a rubric for ranking candidate locations and creating a prioritized list of potential sites. The criteria included factors such as existing surface, public ownership, and proximity to trails, schools and neighborhoods. A variety of locations at parks, schools and other places were identified and meetings were held with representatives of AACPS and AAC Recreation & Parks. This work brought us another step closer bringing the vision to life!
Leadership Anne Arundel
BikeAAA was founded as a team project of the Leadership Anne Arundel Flagship 2013 program and has since received recognition as an exemplary LAA project. BikeAAA board members (and LAA FLG grads) Lois Findlay and Jon Korin presented the LAA FLG ’20 class with a proposed project to secure an approved location. A team of 6 took the project on and picked up the previous work done by the AACPS STEM Student teams. Further refinement of the ranked list was done and meetings were setup with top ranking AACPS locations. A follow-up meeting with AACPS Facilities led to exploration of 2 existing old basketball courts at Lindale MS in Linthicum Heights near BWI Airport. We visited the site which is directly adjacent to the BWI Trail and also features a large parking lot. The team met with Principal John Nash, Asst. Principal Elena Thomas and members of the faculty who were enthusiastic about the project which could embrace the Lindale MS Art and STEM programs. The LAA team prepared the request application including budget, schedule and description and secured approval from AACPS in the spring of 2020!
Lindale MS, Future History Now, Anne Arundel Police Bike Patrol, Rec & Parks and PedalPowerKids
BikeAAA and its partners are strong advocates for bike safety but knew little about painting asphalt. Future History Now is an Annapolis-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization that facilitates collaborative mural projects with youth facing adversity in underserved communities. In the summer of 2020, FHN painted a surface mural of Breonna Taylor on two basketball courts in Annapolis. The collaboration among teaching artists, aspiring artists, social justice advocates and at-risk youth received great acclaim locally and nationally. BikeAAA president Jon Korin had met FHN principals Julia Gibb and Jeff Huntington years earlier and always hoped to collaborate. That day arrived as BikeAAA, FHN and Lindale MS arranged to partner on the Lindale Bike Playground. A phased approach would start with the painting of the course to be followed by adding art in the “island areas” and eventually the addition of a shed with vertical elements like traffic signs that could be used during programs. Lindale MS STEM students developed creative course layouts using Sketchup, Minecraft and home supplies which were then presented virtually to BikeAAA and AACPD Bike Patrol.
In November, 2020 BikeAAA and AACPD Bike Patrol painted a temporary course with spray chalk so we could test the layout with real kids on bikes. PedalPowerKids, a local provider of children’s bike programs ran three sessions totaling about 50 kids as a test run. The program ran beautifully with big smiles behind the COVID masks of kids, parents, staff and volunteers. The test was a great success but we did make a few adjustments to make the course even better. The old asphalt surface was a bit rough and cracked but seemed adequate. In consultation with Lindale MS staff, we determined it best to do some surface repairs before we paint – an improvement for safe biking, walking, basketball and other activities. BikeAAA reached out to its close partner at Anne Arundel County Recreation & Parks who arranged for surface repair and cleaning.
Phase 1 Course Painting Weekend
Painting weekend was set for April 24-25, 2021 and the team of partners collaborated to secure artists, volunteers, students, supplies, food, tents and everything needed to complete Phase 1. The weather forecast called for rain all weekend but Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day for outdoor art, the rain blew through overnight and we resumed on Sunday to complete the course. Squads of Lindale MS art students worked with FHN mentor artists with support from volunteers from BikeAAA, Bike Maryland, Leadership Anne Arundel and bike club Velo City Riders. In addition to the bike course is a walking path that can be used by children on foot, wheelchair or other assistive mobility devices. The bike course uses the familiar white edge lines and yellow center lines found on roadways. But the walking path was an open canvas for art! FHN developed a palette using CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) and worked with the students to creatively paint designs in cyan hues on the walking path. Painting Weekend was a magical blend of art, engineering, ingenuity, teamwork, learning, fun and camaraderie!
Phase 2 – Collaborative Art With Meaning
During the winter of 2021/22 Future History Now worked with the Lindale MS Arts Program and BikeAAA to develop mural concepts for the seven “island” areas with collaborative themes and designs. Together the students, artists and bike advocates developed themes focused on inclusivity, diversity, kindness, nature and Maryland. The addition of artistic murals was funded by BikeAAA and a grant from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. Lunch was provided by Jimmy Johns of Linthicum, MD.
Tribute to Mo Gaba
As the themes were developed and refined, the Lindale MS staff developed a very special addition to our murals. Mo Gaba, a former student at Lindale, became a beloved and inspirational superfan and radio personality of the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens. Mo bravely fought cancer from the age of 9 months and dealt with blindness and other disabilities through his school age years. He graduated from Lindale in June of 2020 and succumbed to cancer on July 28, 2020. Lindale wanted a mural in memory of Mo and the bike course became the perfect canvas. A rendering of Mo was developed by the Future History Now artists and placed in the central island.
In May, 2022, Mo’s Mom, family and friends made their first visit to see the beautiful rendering of their beloved Mo. They were joined by Lindale MS faculty and art students and BikeAAA volunteers. It was quite moving to be with them for this special visit.
More than 40 artists, students and volunteers worked through a weekend in April to paint the 7 murals. Considerable prep work was done by the Future History Now artists to prepare the layouts for the Lindale MS students and volunteers from BikeAAA, Bike Maryland, Baltimore Bicycle Club, Velo City Riders and Lindale parents. It was a magical collaboration of kids, artists, volunteers and paint!
Here is the finished product with some annotations from the interpretive signboard near the course:
Bring your kids, bikes and helmets to try out the course and soak in the art near the lower parking lot of Lindale MS, 415 Andover Rd, Linthicum Heights. The course is open to the public and will also be the site for occasional bike safety programs. To support this project and others, please visit www.bikeaaa.org/support or www.futurehistorynow.org/get-involved.