Partnership aims to empower girls through biking

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Biking is a fun way to get exercise, but it can be so much more. Just ask the girls participating in “Girls in Gear.”

“It’s a girl-specific program to promote social and emotional learning, put them in a space that’s typically male-dominated so they can have the confidence, not only to be responsible for the bikes, maintain the bikes, but also to be out on the road,” says Katherine Swidarskey of Columbus Public Health.

Swidarskey helps lead the girls on group rides. She says the bicycles are used as a tool to empower adolescent girls, teaching them responsibility, compatibility and safety.

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“It’s fun, you some exercise out of it and it feels like you’re flying,” says sixth-grader Madison Wise.

The girls may think they’re just having fun and learning to ride safe and take care of the bikes, but learning these skills is also teaching them to be self-reliant and confident, which is the design of “Girls in Gear.”

In addition to that, the girls are also getting fit.

“At first when I rode the bike, my legs started to cramp and hurt,” said sixth-grader Morgan Laster. “But now, I’m used to it and used to exercising on a bike so it helps me with my legs.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 30 percent of girls between the ages of six and 19 are considered overweight or obese. “Girls in Gear” motivates girls to exercise with the bikes and teaches them how to make better food choices through nutrition education.

“Girls in Gear” is a partnership between Columbus City Schools, Franklinton Cycle Works and Safe Routes to School.