Wednesday, May 2, 2012

NPR feature on biking to school

Eric, 7, Laurel 9, and Carina Anderson, 9, of Vienna, VA
David Darlington recently wrote an article in Bicycling magazine, The Fight to Let Kids Ride to School. Darlington was the featured guest on the show Talk of the Nation, What's Lost When Kids Don't Ride Bikes to School.

Several commenters on the program lament the fact that they live close to school but it's not safe to bike there. That's what happens when we plan schools without properly planning non-motorized access to surrounding areas.

Other comments related to the cool factor; how to make bicycling socially acceptable:
But when I was a kid, like you just said, I rode to school. And there's a difference today, it seems, between recreation and transportation. A lot of kids still ride bikes, but they kind of do it with their parents on the weekend for fun. But the idea of actually using a bicycle to get somewhere is alien to them. Oliver Robinson, who is the superintendent of schools in Clifton Park, just south of Saratoga Springs, who has done a lot of great things there for kids and bikes, he admitted to me that even his own sons, they ride up and down the street for an hour for fun. And then they come inside and say, Dad, drive me to the store to get a Gatorade.
LUDDEN: So in other words, we need some campaign to make bike riding cool?

DARLINGTON: Yeah, and that's what Safe Routes to School tries to do. Robert Ping, the Portland organizer for them, said that's exactly - that is his number one priority when they come into a community, is to try and - they try to stress the cool factor. They figure out what it is, what's going to make bicycling seem cool in this town.
Regarding the cool factor, isn't it ironic that one of the first thing that high school kids purchase when getting to college is a bicycle, something they wouldn't be caught dead with in high school?

The Bicycling article discusses the challenges of riding to school in a suburban New York community (although the photo from the article, above, features the children of FABB's Jeff Anderson):
"Kids on bikes are still made to feel like second-class citizens here," Olson observed. "Look at the size of the space in front of the school—it should have a sheltered bike-parking area. Instead the kids have to park by the road and walk back through three crossings of this busy entrance. They're made to feel as if they're in some suburban parking lot—which is exactly where they are. At really good schools, they would be welcomed—the principal would be out here, and there would be a system for counting how many days a kid has ridden, and a prize for the person who walks or bikes the most. But this school isn't doing that."
Update 3 May 2012: See a followup article from Robert Ping of the SRTS National Partnership, A National Conversation About Bicycling to School.

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