Sarah Braker, senior communications manager
On May 10, hundreds of thousands of students across the U.S. will take to the streets by bike and by foot. No, it’s not because the ice cream trucks have returned for the season?it’s Bike to School Day. Each year, the National Center for Safe Routes to School coordinates this event, encouraging school-age kids to skip the carpool and ditch the bus stop and bike to school instead.
Donald Cross is the school safety coordinator for city of Phoenix, Arizona and is responsible for pedestrian-, bicycle- and vehicle-related safety in and around schools. He oversees 500 schools and all Phoenix Bike to School Day events run through him. ?We do 30 bike to school days, 45 bike rodeos and 90 assemblies that teach bike safety,? Cross explains. In Phoenix alone, more than 20,000 youth will walk or ride to school and roughly 60,000 will participate in rodeos and assemblies.
Cross believes that Bike to School Day benefits the students and the community, beyond just their health and wellness. ?It helps encourage students to ride to school that maybe wouldn’t otherwise,? he says, ?and it helps the jurisdiction figure out ways to improve infrastructure to encourage more biking to school year-round.? Cross says that the event itself is like a big party, and his hope is that it keeps going for the rest of the school year.
For other schools looking to get involved in Bike to School Day, Cross has some advice. ?You want school champions,? he says, ?make sure you connect with school administrations who have a desire to keep the program going, people that have a real interest in biking.? He and his team publicize their events with flyers and have participating schools send weekly reminders leading up to the event. He also says that parents can make the difference. ?Parents really make it successful when they come out and join their kids.?
This year, the event will take place on May 10. For more information on Bike to School Day, or to register your school to participate, visit their website here. Schools can also promote biking and walking this spring by participating in Fire Up Your Feet, a program of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership that provides resources, an online activity tracker and opportunities to win prizes. Spring Challenges are running in May and June.