Walk.Bike.Schools Rolls Into Summer!

Seattle walk and bike to school organizers got together earlier this week and created some end-of-the-school year momentum. We started with a Bike to School Month recap, and also spent some time thinking ahead to the Fall and the 2012-13 school year.

It was a record Bike to School Month here in Seattle, with literally thousands of students participating. There were 3100 elementary age kids who rode on Bike to School Day alone! Cascade staff provided a nice rundown of some of the key numbers for those who are statistically minded. Congratulations to Laurelhurst, Eckstein, and Garfield for winning the inaugural “Golden Pedal” awards for getting the most kids riding this past month at the elementary, middle, and high school levels respectively.
While the statistics are compelling, so are the stories. A couple of highlights:
  • Over 70 Ballard High students  rode on Bike to School Day, plus the core group at Ballard ran a bike donation drive for BikeWorks, and helped as volunteers at West Woodland’s Bike Rodeo too!
  • Loyal Heights Elementary had well over 100 kids riding in the school’s first real year with a program. They are considering starting a bike club at the school next Fall to maintain the momentum! (Ballard overall is a hotbed for bike to school programs; Adams Elementary and Salmon Bay K-8 had really successful years too.)
  • The Thornton Creek bike trains — the first in Seattle — were a huge success, with as many as 35 kids participating, and Wedgwood Elementary had a enthusiastic and growing core group riding throughout May as well.
  • Several other new programs had good participation in their first year, and laid the groundwork for future success. Overall more schools participated in Bike to School Month than ever before. Hearing about schools that are just beginning programs is always inspiring. It takes some work, but with persistence these programs can’t help but grow.
We also heard from Caitlin from Feet First, who talked about the IWalk program and International Walk to School Month in October. There was a lot of interest in focusing in the Fall on promoting walking to school. Caitlin provided an opportunity to sign up for the IWalk mailing list, and Feet First also plans to share info through the walkbikeschools Google Group as well.
Seth from Bicycle Alliance of Washington and the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board also reminded us of the Safe Routes to School Summer Institutes, an upcoming opportunity for folks interested in getting some good training on helping kids walk and bike to school safely:
This August training session is free, and looks to be an excellent way to learn the basics and best practices of starting up and running a Safe Routes to School Program.
As usual, there was some great energy and ideas, and it was just really nice to meet and talk with other folks who are trying to create culture change at their schools. One interesting idea that emerged was to create a “starter kit” — basically an information package to give step by step tips to getting a new program started at a school. Many of us with longer standing programs recall their beginnings, when we had a small handful of families biking and/or walking. It can seem a little daunting when you’re first starting up, especially if you’re a new parent at the school as well. Some info to share techniques for those early stages could be really useful.
Attendees agreed that Walk.Bike.Schools will meet again in the late summer or early fall to gear up for the 2012-13 school year. Look for this next meeting to be hosted by another school in a different part of the city.
It was great to maintain the momentum of these last few months, and look forward to more excitement to come! Thanks to all who could attend!

Walk.Bike.Schools Planning Meeting

Come to next Monday’s “Planning Meeting” to chart out our course for getting more Seattle kids walking and biking to school!

Are you interested in learning about bike and walk to school programs? Helping to grow a movement to get more kids walking and biking to schools all over Seattle? Join us next Monday to share information between schools and other organizers.

Walk.Bike.Schools Planning Meeting
Monday, June 18, 2012
7:00 – 8:30 pm
Bryant Elementary School (in the school library)
3311 NE 60th Street

Come share information and stories with other schools about what is working, what challenges you are facing, and your ideas for getting more of our kids walking and biking to school. Or just come to listen, especially if you are looking to get a new program started and want to hear ideas from others.

All parents and others interested in promoting biking and walking to school are welcome. So spread the word!!

At the meeting, we will debrief on Bike to School Month, and chart out next steps for collaborating among schools on walk and bike programs. We’ll also begin to look forward to the 2012-13 school year and more walking and biking fun and successes. There are already plans brewing for September and October, so it’s a good time to touch bases before everyone scatters for the summer.

Parents sponsoring these programs at our local schools will be on hand to brainstorm ideas. Staff from key organizations that work on walk and bike to school programs will be there to participate and provide updates as well.

For those that weren’t able to attend in April, we generated a ton of great enthusiasm and ideas last time we met. See https://walkbikeschools.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/test-shortlink/ for a recap. Let’s build on those ideas next week!

Hope to see you Monday!

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Bike to School Day 2012, Bryant Elementary

Here’s some footage from Bryant’s 2012 Bike to School Day. We had a morning meet-up at Top Pot Doughnuts, and rode as a group to Bryant. About 180 bikers, including parents and kids. This year, we requested a police escort, so “Seattle’s finest” were on hand to help us navigate the challenging spots like arterial crossings. The kids loved getting the support from the SPD.

West Woodland Bike Rodeo Shines!

West Woodland Bike Rodeo
By Polly Freeman

Fabulous weather and lots of enthusiasm from biking kids, parents, volunteers and sponsors made the 6th annual West Woodland Bike Rodeo one of the best ever on Sunday, May 6.

A total of 56 cyclists and their families enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon at the rodeo. Each participant got a helmet fit check before testing their skills at six stations, snacking on fruit and breadsticks, and enjoying a great day of riding. Many riders took advantage of the bike safety check area to get tires inflated, brakes checked and more.

Happy Kids on Bikes at West WoodlandTwelve cyclists also took home new, low-cost helmets courtesy of Cascade and custom-fitted by our volunteers. A dozen riders also ventured out on two “urban” rides supported by Cascade Bike Club staff and West Woodland parents (Cascade staff time was funded by a Safe Routes to Schools grant).

All the kids who completed the stations earned their choice of a variety of cool stickers, water bottles and patch kits courtesy of Gregg’s Cycles.They were also entered in a drawing for flashy NiteIze spoke lights.  Bolstering the ranks of our usual bike rodeo volunteers, we were happy to see a few new West Woodland parents volunteering and a HUGE (14) contingent of helpers from Ballard High School, who were spurred on in part by community service hours requirements but nonetheless helpful and welcome.

As BTS month continues, we will also have special stickers for kids riding to school on May 18, BTW/S day, and will award prizes to various categories of BTS riders at the end of the month.  We’re energized by the good turnout at the rodeo and already planning to meet to talk about next year’s walking and wheeling plans.

Creating a Walk/Bike Culture

This year, for the first time, biking to school is a prominent part of the Bryant Elementary yearbook! With a half-page spread, the Bike to Bryant program takes its place among the annual play, the Halloween Prowl, Science Fair, and other school traditions. Why not? Like these other activities, biking to school has become “just one of those things we do” at Bryant, every year and for some, every day. Giving it some recognition is part of creating a culture at school of promoting, celebrating, participating in, and “just doing it” when it comes to walking and biking to school. It’s a nice half page spread; maybe next year the other half can be for “Walking to Bryant!”

Bike to Bryant makes the school yearbook

To really reach a tipping point of families routinely choosing to walk or bike instead of drive to school, it will take a shift in the culture of our schools. A lot of emphasis to date has been on walk or bike to school “events” that promote walking or biking for a day, a week, or a month. These events are great — they create a lot of excitement, introduce families to different modes of transportation they may not have considered, and provide a lot of support for trying them out. They are also huge fun and create a real sense of community around walking and biking. But for many families,  after the event is over, it’s back to the usual modes of getting to and from school.

One goal of the Bike to Bryant program the last couple of years has been to build a biking and walking culture at Bryant to encourage families to create a new and more sustainable daily routine. We’ve been holding at least an occasional event year-round, to help families see that walking and biking can be a daily habitat all year here in Seattle. One especially fun event was a group ride to school on the day before winter break, with lots of folks and bikes dressed in holiday decorations. One parent commented to me that it was the first time she had ever ridden her bike in the rain! And that it wasn’t too bad at all!

We’ve also been working with the school administration to get their more active support for and participation in these programs. This includes having the principal’s office be a strong voice for our bike program to the school community. It helps for families to hear of the value of walking and biking not only from parent organizers, but also directly from the school’s administrative leaders. The principal has a bully pulpit; so why not put it to use! This past year, the administration has talked about the program in the weekly newsletter and the occasional “email blast” to the entire school. And the vice principal came out to direct traffic across NE 65th for one of our Top Pot Doughnut rides! (I’ll cover getting the administration on board in more detail in a future post.)

Another approach we’ve been using is to create more of a sense of permanence and continuity from year to year. We are finding ways to place references to walking and biking in high profile spaces, and to both celebrate and normalize these modes of transportation.

The winning class gets the Bike to Bryant award!

The yearbook page is an example of this, showcasing biking to school in a place where kids and families can’t miss it and where it becomes part of the culture and shared memory of our school. The permanent vinyl Bike to Bryant sign that now hangs outside near the bike racks is another (see previous post). A third example is our annual Bike to Bryant award, which goes to the class with the most bike trips during Bike to School Month. A little friendly competition is a good thing to generate excitement, and by having a physical award we can use from year to year, we’ve also been able to display it prominently in the front hall at school all year long.

Probably the most important part of creating a lasting school culture that supports walking and biking programs is to grow the group of parents who support and help to organize these programs.  Collaborating with a mix of parents with kids in multiple grades — including lower levels like K-3 — is essential to sustaining programs over time.

We know we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of things we can do to create a biking and walking culture. We’re always looking for more ideas of how to keep the excitement going, while also normalizing kid-powered commuting, and helping families incorporate it into their daily routine.

Now hanging prominently in the front hall at Bryant.