Trek Women
October 30, 2007

IT'S NOT SAFE TO RIDE YOUR BIKE

Biketoschool_3
A couple of weeks ago my son Liam asked me if he could ride his bike to school.  I was very excited by his request.  That’s a big deal for a second grader.  First we made a dry run to the school.  We scoped out the safest route and searched for a bike rack when we got there.  Much to our surprise the school did not have a bike rack.  Clearly riding bikes to and from school wasn’t a priority for his school but believe it or not, it is not a priority for too many schools. The percentage of U.S. students who bike or walk to school has declined from about 50% to 15% since 1969 while obesity among children has increased. More than 33% of American kids (about 25 million) are overweight or obese.  The days of kids riding their bikes to school are long gone…but hopefully not for long.  Maybe a 7 year old can make a difference. 

My son decided to write an email to the principal asking him if the school could get some bike racks so more kids could ride their bike to school.  He also suggested a “bike to school day.” He thought that is would be a good way for the kids to get exercise. The principal wrote him back the next day and even got him out of his class to discuss the issue with him.  He explained to him that he was very pleased that he rode his bike to school with his mother, but he couldn’t support kids riding their bikes to school because of the safety issues involved.  He said there were several buses and cars that drove in front of the school and it would not be a safe place for a cyclist. While he commended his ride to school he explained that the safety of his students was his number one priority.

Liam and I discussed options regarding how kids riding their bike to school could work in our community.   We came up with a few ideas.  For starters, the school needs painted crosswalks, better sidewalks, crossing guards (remember those?) and bike racks.  After doing some poking around we found an organization called America's Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTS).   SRTS is designed to help parents, schools, local and state governments and advocacy groups create programs that encourage more kids to bike and walk to school.  The $612 million federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program provides community funds for building sidewalks and bike paths.  Personally, I had no idea that an entire organization devoted to creating safe routes to schools even existed.  It looks like Liam and I have our work cut out for us. 

Comments

While it's great that you're encouraging your son to bike to school and get more exercise, I think it's even MORE wonderful that you're teaching him that he has power to make change in the world. So many times kids in schools think that they can't change things because the administration "says so", but collectively, they have a lot of power and can make a huge difference in their worlds.

Now, if I could just get my 8 year old to want to learn to ride a bike! He tried a little a long time ago and got flustered, so now he's not even interested. If he could ride, we could bike to the baseball games at our rec fields.

Nice job on teaching the kids by example, mom! :)

Posted by: Ginger | Oct 29, 2007 7:17:12 AM

What a smart young man, Liam is becoming! We are so proud of him. I wish more parents spent the quality time with their children that you and Loveman do. What an amazing world this would be!
Please remind Liam that Uncle Tom loves to write letters to politicians. I am happy to help, too! I will need those safe routes once I start riding!

Posted by: Melissa | Oct 29, 2007 10:03:31 AM

What a great, yet frustrating entry. As a competitive cyclist with a master's degree in exercise physiology (yes EXERCISE physiology - they actually have degrees in exercise)I find it continually frustrating the obstacles we as adults and our children face to enjoy safe exercise. Frankly, I find the Principles answer unacceptable, and am even more discouraged that the Principle didn't offer any other solutions or even a "task force" to look into the idea. Quite honestly, my mind quickly resorts to the fact that the Principle is probably overweight and a non-exerciser. I know, I'm horrible. At any rate, in this country as well as all over the world, where obesity is an EPIDEMIC and gym and exercise classes are being shortened and/or abolished, I think its extremely important to teach our children the happiness, fun, and health benefits of an exercise they are able to do for a lifetime. As a researcher at the University of Maryland Baltimore, I see first hand the problems that obesity causes - stroke, heart attacks, diabetes. Perhaps I should come in and discuss the benefits of physical activity and exercise with the students. Sorry for the rant. At any rate, GO LIAM. YOU ROCK. Don't EVER let them tell ya you can't do something. Now go ride. Jenn

Posted by: Jenn | Oct 29, 2007 4:59:45 PM

Excellent story and excellent message to and for your son. Like the other said, it's the roadblocks that are discouraging, but the first one is always the hardest. I would love to watch this situation develop into a force for positive change. Keep us posted..Marie

Posted by: Trek Sister Marie | Oct 29, 2007 8:18:10 PM

I interview the Director of the Safe Routes To School National Partnership on this week's epside of Perils For Pedestrians.

Tuesday, November 6, The Universityhouse Channel will show Episode 135 of "Perils For Pedestrians".

Contents of Episode 135 (2007):
--Deb Hubsmith gives the history of Safe Routes to School programs; San Rafael, CA.
--We look at environmental health and walking: Berkeley, CA.
--We visit Prevention Institute to discuss walkable environments as part of quality disease prevention; Oakland, CA.
--We learn about Pedestrian Safety Action Plans; Davis, CA.

DISH Network Channel 9411 -- The Universityhouse Channel
Tuesday -- 9:30 PM Eastern, 6:30 Pacific

Episode 135 is also available on Google Video:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-978718201395050318

Note: Public access cable channels are showing different episodes than DISH Network.

I suggest you try to crack things open at your school by getting it to participate in next year's International Walk to School Day, usually the first Wednesday in October. It's not too early to get started organizing. http://www.walktoschool.org/

Thank you.

Posted by: John Z Wetmore | Nov 3, 2007 5:51:45 PM

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