Cyclist of the Month: Bryan Pule

Simply Accessible Cycling.

Age: 46
Occupation: Elementary Physical Education Teacher
Degree: History, University of California – Santa Barbara
Commute: 18 miles round trip from Central District to Ballard
Wheels: 1994 Canondale T-700 (commuter); 1980s Peugeot, three-speed Schwinn Metro Cycle with foldable racks and generator light (shopping bike), and a Schwinn unicycle, three-speed Sea Breeze, and a Schwinn tandem.

Each spring, Bryan Pule’s Whittier Elementary Physical Education students grab their bikes and showcase real single-speed prowess. Participating in Ballard’s Norwegian Independence Parade, up to 90 kids unicycle down Market Street, performing large group routines.

For Pule, who didn’t own a car until his mid thirties, getting kids on bikes is business as usual. Four years ago, Cascade Bicycle Club introduced its Group Health Basics of Bicycling program to Whittier Elementary. Bryan, a physical education teacher, attended a few classes and became hooked.

Today, Pule teaches the Basics of Bicycling curriculum (generally geared towards third – fifth graders) to 430 kindergarten through fifth grade students at Whittier. Each spring, he presents eight classes per day for two weeks, teaching 30 – 50 kids how to learn to ride bikes during each one-week session.

Pule also conducts helmet sales and helmet fittings at the school. And, during lunch recess, he teaches unicycling.

“It’s hard work, but it’s lots of fun to see the kids earn their pedals.”

The Basics of Bicycling curriculum includes “stations” where youth learn, well, the basics of bicycling. The stations focus on active skill drills that develop safety awareness: scanning backwards, stop/eye contact with drivers, rock dodge, slow race, crazy eights, and, most important, driveway ride out. Students also review their ABCs (air, brakes, and chain safety checks). Pule concludes the program with “Whitterville” – an event where riders are in a mock “town” environment complete with two bikes representing cars.

“Bryan does a great job of keeping the kids in control, but keeping the curriculum fun too,” says Kat Sweet, youth program coordinator the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation.

Pule purposely schedules Basics of Bicycling in late April, to precede the annual Bike To School Challenge. Smart thinking. For two years in a row, Whittier Elementary has won the Student biking challenge. In 2008, 103 kids logged 1,500 cumulative commutes to take the award. Whittier has also had the most bicycle commutes during May’s Bike Commute month for 2 years in a row and had 1,500 commutes.

Pule appreciates that his Club membership supports education and advocacy efforts – including the work along his 8th Ave NW commute route. He feels the Club touches all cyclists, from novices to high performance riders.

Bryan started riding in college; today, his 90-mile commute weeks don’t leave much time for recreational riding. His wife Pamela doesn’t drive, so a single vehicle meets their needs.

For eight years, rain or shine, Bryan has averaged 2,500 miles per year commuting on his bike. His goal for 2009: 3,000 miles. Since moving to Seattle from California in 1992, fenders have become Bryan’s best friend. His other favorite cycling accessory is neoprene booties for cold, wet commuting days.

September through June, Bryan plots his virtual mileage on a map, talking to students about the equivalent distance traveled: Seattle to Ohio, Ohio to Paris via New York City, Iceland, and the British Isles; next year, Bryan will bring students on a virtual world trip from southern France to Spain.

His habits and hard-work are paying off. Even in wet, windy October, Pule counts 25 – 30 student bikes outside almost each day.

The Group Health Basics of Bicycling program serves 12,000 students per year in three school districts: Highline, Lake Washington, and Seattle.

Scott Marlow was marketing director for Cascade Bicycle Club from 2001 – 2005. Currently the Club record-holder for the shortest commute (under six-seconds), Marlow works from his home office in West Seattle. Nominate your cyclist of the month!