Our Community News
Common Ground with Pedal Power
In 2021, the Foundation’s Board of Directors chose ten organizations that promote conservation, encourage youth and veteran participation in outdoor sports, and work to improve diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. The recipients received over $600,000 in grant funding. Now, we’re doing a deep dive into the organization so our employees and external stakeholders can learn more about the Foundation’s partners, their missions and how they put their grant to use. This month’s Common Ground feature highlights Pedal Power MN.
Pedal Power MN
Why Pedal Power MN?
The Vista Outdoor Foundation’s creation is owed, in part, to Pedal Power. Pedal Power received funding from Vista Outdoor in 2020 after their trailer of bikes, helmets and gear were stolen. A handful of Minnesota-based employees saw the local news report about the theft, organized an email chain to Vista leadership which led to a donation of funding and gear.
“Pedal Power showed us firsthand the value of connecting with new organizations and creating a pipeline to engage up-and-coming non-profits,” said Fred Ferguson, VP, Public Affairs and Communications. “Shortly after the Pedal Power experience, our leadership challenged us to come up with a process to expand support for similar organizations so that we could broaden our impact across the country. This led to the formation of the Vista Outdoor Foundation, and the rest, they say, is history.”
Who they are
Pedal Power was inspired by the realization that about a third of 4th and 5th graders in Minneapolis can’t ride a bike or don't have a bike. This inequity of access to bikes and opportunities to learn or improve skills is a problem that they are working to help solve. Pedal Power is focused on reaching students from high poverty and high minority communities, integrating biking into the school day, and helping to create a culture of biking within these schools. The organization partners with teachers, volunteers, community members, bike shops, advocacy groups, and some generous donors to provide school-based bike education that is cooperative, inclusive and sensitive to the needs of a school, class, or individual student.
“Riding a bike should be a skill that every child has an equal chance to learn, regardless of whether their family has resources, time, knowledge or any history of biking in their culture,” said Susan Tuck, Co-Founder of Pedal Power MN. “Pedal Power coaches love teaching biking to elementary age students because they haven't yet become self-conscious, inhibited about trying new things, or too afraid of failing in front of their friends. It's the perfect scenario—kids learning, practicing, falling and finally succeeding together with the support of their peers. Students become confident in their biking skills, practice navigation and problem-solving skills, and learn basic bike care and maintenance while building a foundation for lifelong outdoor activity.”
Bike fleets at each school are used to introduce biking, and as a vehicle for exploring the outdoors. A typical trip might include biking to a park, focusing on some of the natural surroundings, perhaps even teaching students how to light a campfire and roast marshmallows for the first time.
Mission & Vision
To create opportunities for adventure, teamwork, problem solving, and hands-on learning for students through school-based bicycle education programs in underserved communities. Students learn to bike, then bike to learn—about themselves, their neighborhood and community, and about developing a love of outdoor activity.
Our hope is that biking becomes a lifelong activity, a vehicle for outdoor adventure, a form of exercise, a mode of transportation, a skill to continuously improve upon and an ongoing source of joy and camaraderie.
The Vista Outdoor grant will help us expand and grow Pedal Power’s bicycle education program into additional Minneapolis schools and support the growth of universal bike education across the city by removing barriers that hinder participation.
In addition to learning how to ride, students explore science, history, art and more as they navigate the abundant bike lanes, paths and trails in their school neighborhood. Kids develop a strong connection with their community, and build confidence, persistence, and grit along the way. Pedal Power will be able to help more students access cultural, historical and recreational resources in their city and provides opportunities to learn about the teamwork and friendships that develop around riding a bike.
“Pedal Power’s secret sauce are founders Mark and Susan, who launched the non-profit after decades of teaching elementary school in inner-city Minneapolis. Their love of teaching and supporting their students led to Pedal Power, which is Minnesota’s preeminent school-based biking program. Pedal Power’s ‘Learn to Bike, Bike to Learn’ programming introduces biking to those who otherwise would not have access to bikes. The net-result is kids getting on bikes and learning valuable lessons about responsibility, community and mutual respect along the way,” said Ferguson.