Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why don't more kids ride bikes to school?

We've been working recently with a parent who wants to ride her bike to school with her child. The school does not have a bike rack. The parent asked for a rack and was told that the school is undergoing renovations and it's not safe to ride to school. The school administrator would not even discuss installing a rack until after the renovations were completed.

It's hard to believe that a safe location for a bike rack cannot be found on school grounds. The school has found a way to safely get kids to school on school buses. Teachers drive and park safely. Parents drop kids off at school and the kids walk from the dropoff point. I assume a teacher could decide to ride to school and would also want a bike rack. And yet it's not safe to park one's bike at school.

The school did finally agree to install a rack after the renovations. However, the renovations are expected to take up to another year.

I've often wondered why more kids don't ride their bikes to school. I think one answer is that they are not encouraged to ride to school. Some schools actively discourage kids from riding bikes to school. Where did this attitude come from? It seems especially odd in a country where the number one cause of death for teens between the ages of 15 and 20 is car crashes. See the map of teen car crashes in Fairfax Co for 2007-2007 for an idea of the magnitude of the problem.

Kids are now taught from the very beginning that they have to rely on a motor vehicle to get around. They ride in school buses or parents drive them to school. There is little to no bicycle education in schools; why should there be when kids are discouraged from riding?

There are some positive signs. Louise Archer Elementary School now has a Safe Routes to School Program that includes incentives for kids to ride to school (go to the school website to view a video of this year's walk to school day). Parents at Wolftrap and Westbriar Elementary Schools are working with school administrators to set up SRTS programs and to get racks installed for kids. Let's hope this trend continues.



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