School bicycle policies

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Thursday, August 24, 2006
By Yokota Fritz


By Richard Masoner.

Here's a concept: Parents riding to school with their children! Abernathy Elementary in SE Portland. Photo from BikePortland.
A new school year begins for many children around the US, and with it battles to allow children to ride their bikes to school.

School officials in Lawrence, KS, reacted to the tragic death of a six-year-old by banning bikes and scooters for children under third grade. Many families who live very close to their schools are also effected, and the bicycle ban does not sit well with them at all. “We live right down the street. He can’t ride his bike down the trail if he wants to,” Dave Stevens said of his first-grade stepson.

The Bay City School District in Michigan now allows middle and high school students to ride to school, though they still don't allow elementary school students to ride. The policy for the older students was changed because of cuts in bus service. According to superintendent Carolyn Wierda, the policy also supports today's emphasis on healthier students and the need for more exercise.

Fifty years of transportation policies that favor the automobile over any other consideration -- including the safety of those outside of the metal cage -- have led to this situation where many children cannot walk or bike safely to their schools. Many communities with active cycling advocacy efforts have schools with policies that encourage cycling, and these groups also work for changes in local traffic to create safe routes to school for their children. If you live in a community that has recently banned human-powered transportation to school read this "How To" guide and case study from the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation to "Crack the Liability Lies in Walking and Biking to School." An important paradigm shift is occuring throughout the US regarding transportation planning and engineering, but many school board members and officials have missed this train. They need to be educated, and this education must be done by you.

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