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OCSE introduces Belles on Bikes to empower community, teach students about bike safety

| Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Saint Mary’s Office for Civil and Social Engagement (OCSE) has introduced a new way for students experience the local community.

Belles on Bikes is a new organization led by Kris Choinacky, assistant director of the OCSE. The purpose of the group is to present students with a new way to get off campus in the spring via group bike rides. 

Belles for Bikes has been in the works since the fall semester. 

“We collaborated with a local female Trek representative, whose goal is to get more women on bikes,” Choinacky said in an email. “Together, we worked on a plan for winter clinics that would educate us on safety and maintenance before we went out in the spring.” 

The workshops present new ways for students to learn about bike safety and maintenance before they hit the streets of South Bend later in the semester. 

The first clinic, designed to tackle bike safety was held in the Warner Conference Room on Saturday. 

Sandy Zielinski of the company Health Coaching LLC offered tips on bike safety during the first clinic. Zielinski has participated in Ironman competitions, marathons and triathlons and is a functional medicine certified health coach. According to her website, Zielinski primarily focuses on brain health issues. 

The second clinic will come later in the month, on Feb. 22. South Bend Bike Garage will be visiting the Saint Mary’s Student Center Atrium to help students learn about bike maintenance.  

The group’s actual bike riding activities will start up in the spring, once the weather improves. The winter workshops are meant to prepare students for later outings. 

Choinacky will be riding with students through South Bend. 

“I’m a big fan of cycling, so I wanted to share my passion with our students,” she said. “Bike riding is a great tool to empower the students, as well as to connect them with our community.” 

Student reception to Belles on Bikes has been generally positive. There’s only been one issue, Choinacky said.

“Many students who expressed interest don’t have bikes here, so we’re trying to find ways to have bikes available for future rides,” she said.

Junior and OCSE student employee Mia Williams agreed with Choinacky about the possible issues surrounding bike availability.

“It would be nice to expand the idea to walking or running groups,” Williams said. “There are some students who can’t afford a bike or who live too far away for them to bring their bikes to campus.”

Overall, Choinacky expressed a hope that the impact of Belles on Bikes will be positive. The program will allow students to explore the area and go beyond campus. 

“It would promote health and wellness and create new friendships,” she said. “Our program offers a chance to fulfill our vision of OCSE to engage, connect and serve our local community.”

Williams agreed with Choinacky’s assessment. 

“It’s a cool way to connect and a great community builder,” she said. “Belles on Bikes is a great way to do what you love with people who share the same interest. You’ll get to see more of South Bend and explore more than just Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.” 

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