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LCI Spotlight: Jenny Bordon

The League certifies hundreds of League Cycling Instructors every year and there are thousands of LCIs across the country leading bike education efforts in their communities. In our LCI spotlight series, we share the stories of League Cycling Instructors doing what they do daily: educating, mentoring, and empowering. You don’t have to be an extraordinary athlete or overachieving student to be a stellar LCI, all you need is the conviction that life is better for everyone when more people ride bikes.

This month, we’re catching up with Jennifer Bordon, an LCI who works with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) as their Active Living Coordinator. Her department, MPS Culinary & Wellness Services, is on a mission to nurture all children through access to quality food and active living. Through a combination of in-school education and promoting change through Safe Routes to Schools, Jenny works towards universal bike education and safe transportation for the 30,000 students in Minneapolis Public Schools. 

Jenny’s nominator says, “Jenny is spearheading the effort to have universal bicycle education in Minneapolis Schools. She makes everyone feel special. Jenny teaches students and teachers. One of her big jobs is getting enough resources for teachers to teach biking. Jenny was awarded bike educator of the year by BikeMN in 2016.”

Know an inspiring LCI we should feature next? Nominate a stellar bike educator here! 

Tell us a little about yourself and why you enjoy teaching bike education.

I started working in education as a Language Arts teacher and found the position of Active Living Coordinator while navigating the transition of having young children. I wasn’t brought up in the planning world and always thought I’d get back in the classroom eventually, but I’ve found this work to be incredibly inspiring and am still here in this role ten years later. 

I enjoy bike education because bikes bring so much freedom, both economically and in terms of transportation. I love seeing young people feel powerful and connected to their communities – especially when they understand these are their streets just as much as everyone else’s. Bikes also bring immense joy and foster connection. Biking was one of the first group activities we were able to bring back during the pandemic, and it was so important in helping me and the students have the chance to be outside and have fun together again. 

What first motivated you to become an LCI?

I was motivated by the goal of bringing universal bike education to fourth and fifth graders. Only a few schools in MPS had bike education opportunities, but we wanted this experience to be for everyone. So we consulted with teacher leaders and worked hard to ground our work in best practices.

Today, staff who teach bike education in MPS have been trained by an LCI – and several MPS staff are LCI’s and can train their peers. We’re constantly building the bicycle skills and knowledge of MPS staff which increases our capacity to reach more students with bike education. It has really helped to ground ourselves in something very solid like the League’s education program.

What has been your greatest reward in teaching bike education?

It has to be the literally thousands of students who learned how to bike for the first time. Our students are diverse – some kids have never had access to a bike before, while others have learned bike skills without learning any road safety. What we do is first teach kids biking on campus so they gain skills in a safe, controlled environment. When students are ready, they put their learning into practice by riding safely on the streets and trails of Minneapolis with their class. The experience can have a lifelong impact on students and on our whole community.

What is your best piece of advice for an LCI who wants to teach a class but isn’t sure how to get started?

Community education is a great place to start. Try connecting with your local school district – there could be a physical education, student wellness, or health lead who wants more bike education but doesn’t know any instructors. Personally, I’d love to have LCIs knocking on our door. Know that you might strike out at first, but just find the right people. It’s not always about success, but planting seeds. 

What is something you think all LCIs should know about teaching bike education?

We need to meet people as people first. It’s key to establish a connection with students so we can honor what everyone brings to the classroom. Biking brings you into a shared public space, and we all have different experiences with that for different reasons – gender, culture, race, and ability can all impact how safe or welcome we feel on the road. It’s important to make room for everyone’s experiences to be valued. We build a stronger world because of that. 

Give us an interesting or funny fact about you.

When I was in junior high, I lived in suburbs with no sidewalks. Kids would ride all over the road however they wanted. There was a program in town where, if you were seen riding unsafely, police officers would give you a “ticket” to make you go to bike education classes. I got a ticket one day and ended up being glad I did. The classes were super fun with kids from all different schools getting to hang out and learn skills. I found freedom and power in the idea that you can own the streets on a bike – and if you follow road safety rules, your experience is a lot better and less stressful.  

I’ve commuted for many years of my life, including winter biking in the early 90s when there were way fewer cyclists commuting in Minneapolis. I often wonder how my experience in bike education classes helped shape my confidence and feeling of being empowered to be on the road. 

A woman smiles eagerly while standing with a bike

What is your favorite thing about being on a bike?

As someone who bikes for transportation, I just like to get where I need to go. Also, you know how people will tell you to get offline and touch grass? For me, I just need to touch pedals sometimes! I love riding to feel connected with the world around me. I get to say hi to people in the morning who I’d never have the chance to talk to in a car. Sometimes I run into a friend, and get to catch up while riding together. Proximity matters – being in a public space and being outdoors together matters.

What is your favorite memory from being on a bike?

What hooked me was a trip to my local mall. My mom was driving me home from a shopping trip one day, and I looked out the window and realized it was a straight shot. If I could make it to this corner, I could get there! So, being a child of the early eighties left on my own all summer long, I hopped on my Huffy 10-speed and headed to the corner I had chosen as a landmark. I was the only one riding my bike in traffic (and looking back, the road was pretty dangerous and un-bikeable) but I made it all the way to the mall. When I got there, I bought myself the rainbow sweater of my dreams and biked back home. The independence of taking that trip and navigating on my own really hooked me.