Event Report: Walk to School Month at West Woodland

bike fairy fall 13 (Small)by Polly Freeman, West Woodland Elementary

For the month of October, West Woodland students tracked their non-driving trips to school (biking, walking, scootering, bussing) on spreadsheets outside each classroom door.

walkie award at West WoodlandOn International Walk to School Day, we met walkers and bikers outside the school with free breadsticks donated by Great Harvest Bakery. We moved away from giving small trinkets as incentives this year—instead, two high-participating classrooms (K-2 and 3-5) received the first annual “Walkie” award – a golden tennis shoe mounted on a decorative base created by one of our artistic parents and her team of junior artists.

Also, five top walkers and wheelers received headlamps donated by Second Ascent. Winning classes and individuals were recognized during a monthly all-school announcement over the intercom, which reinforced their participation and honored them in front of their peers.we met walkers and bikers outside the school with free breadsticks donated by Great Harvest Bakery.

The “Bike Fairy” was also spotted during Walk and Wheel Month, “catching” walking and wheeling students, and awarding them Hershey’s Kisses and stickers that say, “I got Kissed by the Bike Fairy.”

Kids remembered the Bike Fairy from last year, and were thrilled to spot the Fairy as they walked to and from school.

Breadsticks this Way!

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Recap of Fall Info Sharing Meeting

Folks from 9 schools and several other organizations attended the information sharing session earlier this month. Many other folks expressed interest, but couldn’t make it due to a variety of conflicts. This time of year is especially busy in the school communities!

The major topics we discussed included:

Ballard Bikes
The new Ballard Bikes program is a multi-school collaboration to get kids biking and walking to school at several Ballard schools (currently seven). The focus is on year-round encouragement and sharing of resources, as well as creating a “bigger buzz” about active commuting in Ballard. The schools have already co-hosted a bike rodeo at the Ballard Neighborhood Greenway opening, and are holding a bike to school kick-off event on September 28 at Salmon Bay K-8.

International Walk to School Month and IWalk
October is International Walk to School Month. All local schools are encouraged to participate. One way to get plugged in is through Feet First, which has many resources available to help plan and run events. Schools can use a variety of approaches, ranging from a single day event, to weekly or month-long events to encourage walking to school. Wednesday, October 9, is International Walk to School Day. To register an IWalk event, go to http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/node/add/event.

SDOT Mini-grants
It is almost mini-grant season. Last year 29 schools and organizations received grants — a record year! At the meeting, Seattle Department of Transportation requested input on the size of grants, the outreach flyer they are using, etc. There was no shortage of ideas; two good ones were (1) to consider changing the timing of the annual grant program so it coincides with the school year, and (2) to augment the existing annual grant program with smaller “quick start” type grants so that new schools could apply any time. The tentative date for applications for 2014 funding is October 25.
School Road Safety Initiative
The City of Seattle’s School Road Safety Initiative involves both planning and implementation to improve traffic safety in and near school zones. The major elements are a city-wide plan, traffic safety plans around twenty schools, and Safe Routes to School projects. The work will address all five “E’s” of Safe Routes to School — engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation.  Funding for both planning and implementation is coming from traffic speed cameras installed in school zones, and currently $14.8 million is anticipated for 2013-14., with a mayor proposed list of projects under review at this time as well.
Folks in attendance shared information on a few other upcoming events and initiatives as well, including tonight’s Green Your School Fair at Lincoln High School.
Thanks to all who could attend, and to everyone else who expressed interest as well. Here’s to another year of walking and biking to school!

 

Fall 2013 Walk and Bike to School Info Session

Parents, teachers, staff, and students across Seattle are beginning another school year. As the instruction and extracurricular activities begin, parents are also planning the school commutes that take tens of thousands of Seattle kids from where they live to where they learn. So It’s a great time to get the creative juices flowing and share ideas for helping more of our kids choose active and sustainable transportation for this coming year.

Come meet with other walk and bike to school organizers and advocates next Tuesday and get things rolling for another school year.

Fall 2013 Info Sharing Session

Tuesday, September 10, from 6:00 to 7:45 p.m.
Ballard branch, Seattle Public Library, 5614 22nd Ave NW

Are you a Safe Routes to School organizer at your local school? A parent interested in starting a program? A community member interested in what the buzz is about and maybe wanting to lend a hand? This meeting is for you.

Next Tuesday evening will be an opportunity to share updates, ideas, and plans for ramping up walking and biking this year.

The agenda will include:

  • “Ballard Bikes” multi-school walk and bike to school plans
  • Creative ideas from individual schools to get more kids walking and biking (share yours with others!)
  • A report from Feet First on October Walk to School Month
  • A report from SDOT on upcoming Safe Routes to School mini-grant opportunities
  • The latest on the School Road Safety Task Force

This event is open to everyone in the community who is interested in increasing walking and biking to Seattle schools. Hope you can join us and please spread the word.

Their are good options for getting to the Ballard library by bike, on foot, or on public transportation. There is bike parking out front and the library is near several bus routes. If you drive, you can park for free in the garage underneath.

Seattle has seen continuing growth in the number of schools promoting active transportation, and in the number of families choosing to commute to school under their own power. Let’s work together to maintain the momentum in 2013-14!

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West Woodland Bike Rodeo Rides Again!

A bike rodeo is a safe and supportive place to get the youngest riders started

A bike rodeo is a safe and supportive place to get even the youngest riders started

guest post by Polly Freeman

Beating the odds on the weather, 65 cyclists and their families enjoyed an afternoon of bike riding at the West Woodland bike rodeo Sunday, April 28. Each cyclist got a helmet fit check before testing their skills at six stations and snacking on fruit and breadsticks. The bike safety check area was bustling with volunteers pumping tires, checking brakes and more. Fourteen cyclists also took home new low-cost helmets, custom-fitted by our volunteers, thanks to the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation. A dozen riders ventured out on two “urban” rides supported by Cascade Bike Club staff.

Everyone who completed the stations earned their choice of cool stickers, water bottles and patch kits courtesy of Gregg’s Cycles and Free Range Cycles. All riders were also entered in a drawing for NiteIze bike lights.

Thank you so much to our 20 dedicated parent volunteers, veterans and newbies alike, who make the bike rodeo possible – and fun! We rely on West Woodlan staff support and also thank our sponsors and donors, especially Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation, Gregg’s Cycles, Free Range Cycles, Great Harvest and Ballard Market.

Editors note: Reports like this are trickling in as schools around Seattle kick off Bike to School Month this year. Bike rodeos and other kickoff event were held at several schools last week, with more today and next week too. West Woodland is experienced at this, and Polly is too (her fifth bike rodeo!). They’ve worked out the bugs, and hopefully some of their approaches will be useful to others.

West Woodland Bike Rodeo Rider

Spring Walk.Bike.Schools Meeting 4/10 Salmon Bay K-8

bike to school sign-in table at early Bryant Bike to School kickoff

Parents and school-community members are invited to participate in the spring Walk.Bike.Schools meeting 7pm Wednesday April 10. We’re headed to Ballard again, this time the Salmon Bay K-8 library.

In addition to our normal information sharing and bike-program planning, we’re hoping to talk a little bit about strateegery. It’s been a year since we kicked off this “program” (using the term loosely here) and it makes sense to step back and see who or what the group wants to be when we grow up. Anne first broached this in a message to the WalkBikeSchools Google Group, but we didn’t get any discussion on the list. It was April Fool’s day, so maybe folks were so busy with hi-jinks like freezing bed sheets and putting “Wet-paint” signs on dry paint. In a nutshell, we came up with a rough outline about who we are (much of it based on what we were thinking when we launched the group), but still need the group to help decide what we want to do.

Who/What is Walk.Bike.Schools?

This is first and foremost a parent group. We invite any interested parent who cares about walking and biking to school to join and participate. We also welcome neighbors of a school to participate [and members of a school staff/faculty]. Schools and neighborhoods should work together to encourage walking and biking to school.

 This past year other groups have attended meetings and participated in the conversation surrounding walking and biking to school. From Bicycle Alliance, to SDOT, to Feet First, to Cascade Bicycle Club, to Undriving, to members of the Pedestrian Advisory Board and the Bicycle Advisory Board. Did I miss any? If you are a member of a group that cares about encouraging kids and families to walk and bike to school, you too are welcome. We will all likely have opportunities for collaboration.

We’ve added that to the “About” page here on the blog, but we’ve still got a bunch of decisions to make as a group. For example, are we happy just meeting every three or so times a year for general information sharing and bike and walk planning? Those are great activities and I think we can all agree it’s pretty helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off— especially if it’s someone from another school who’s already been through the startup phase!  We’re all busy, so maybe that’s enough. Fair enough.

But there’s also an opportunity to use our unique position as parents to demand  the city and SPS to do more to encourage active transportation. For example the district is making noises and passing resolutions about walking school buses. But so far, we haven’t seen much in the way of action beyond a survey. Does this group want to take a stand on things like that? Do we want to hold the district accountable to the safety and transportation issues we care about? As parents, I certainly feel we should, but whether we take an official group position is up to all of you.

That’s probably enough to chew on now. A brief agenda is below.  As always, you are welcome to contribute your ideas. If you have a program to share (or questions/comments about starting a program at your schools) please come to the meeting.

Walk Bike Schools Spring Meeting
Where: Salmon Bay library 1810 NW 65th St. • Seattle, WA  http://www.salmonbayschool.org/
Date: Wed, April 10th
Time: 7:00 – 8:30
 
Agenda
  1. Welcome and Intro (Anne)
  2. 1 year check-in for Walk.Bike.Schools. Who are we? Do we need a mission or direction? What does the group want our role to be (Tim)
  3. Walking and biking to school in Seattle. Are there specific issues Walk.Bike.Schools wants to take a position on? If so, which and how do we act? (Clint)
  4. Loyal Heights bike club info and update (Shannon)
  5. Salmon Bay – getting a new bike and walk to school program off the ground, challenges etc (Karen)
  6. SDOT mini grants, How to keep track of expenses for year-end reporting (Anne)
  7. General bike to school month discussion, program & event tips, etc. Bring your questions and ideas and make use of the group’s collective wisdom (all)

A reminder for future events: We love mixing up the location of meetings and sharing the walk.bike.love with communities all over the city. If you want to host, give us a shout!

The Loyal Heights Urban Cycling Club

Loyal Heights urban bikersIf you were an elementary school student just getting comfortable on your bike and navigating your neighborhood, how cool would it be to be part of a bike club to work on skills and ride with your friends?

It’s no wonder that so many kids are on sports teams, in scouts or band, or participate in other activities. It’s super fun to get together with some other like-minded kids to build skills and learn from a coach and each other. And biking clearly has the same potential: so many adults enjoy the social aspects of cycling and belong to a club or a team or just appreciate riding with friends.

So a bike club for kids seems like a no-brainer, right? But there aren’t many at the elementary school level in Seattle. That is beginning to change, however, and one of the more interesting new initiatives in Seattle’s bike to school world is an after-school club recently founded at Loyal Heights Elementary in Ballard. We’ve touched on it before, highlighting it as one of the many promising 2013 programs receiving some support from Safe Routes to School mini-grants this year.

I’m excited to report the club has been formed and the fun has begun! From Loyal Heights parent and bike to school organizer Shannon Koller:

The Loyal Heights After-School Urban Cycling Club is off and rolling after a very successful first meeting last Friday.  Seventeen 3rd – 5th graders are participating in this new after-school club, 10 of which are girls!  After learning each others names, we started off with helmet fit, then went on to ABC quick check and how to lock up your bike.  Sensing a growing energy in the group, we got the kids on their bikes and taught them the basics of starting, stopping, standing, and shifting.

The kids really seemed to like the ability to learn something, then immediately practice it.  This week we will teach hand signals, road signs, rules of the road, then practice skills like rock dodge, scanning, quick stop, slalom and more.  Theory and application is the center of the curriculum and we will eventually be taking our lessons on to the neighborhood streets in April for organized rides to the Ballard Library, Sunset Overlook Park, and the Ballard Greenway.  Each week kids will practice riding through roundabouts, unmarked intersections, bike lanes, and other urban infrastructure that they will encounter in our neighborhood.

Demonstrating proper braking techniques

Demonstrating proper braking techniques

The cool thing about this bike club is that it’s focused on helping kids develop real-world riding skills appropriate to Seattle and specifically to the neighborhood around Loyal Heights and Ballard. This will empower these kids to become independent, competent urban cyclists!

Shannon also reports that Loyal Heights is already planning for Bike to School month, and shared some early details. They expect to hold a kickoff event on Saturday, April 27 on the school playground with a bike skills workshop, bike adjustment station, helmet sale, and more.  Kickoff events are a great way to start bike to school months or springtime biking in general, by giving families some initial support and encouragement, and simply providing a specific time to get the community focused on the potential for kids getting to school under their own power. Loyal Heights also plans to hold organized neighborhood rides to take place right after the event.

Loyal Heights is also considering organizing some bike trains too, possibly on Bike to School Day. We’ll be posting a little more info on bike trains in the near future.

It’s awesome to hear that schools are already launching springtime bike to school programs!

Making signs for an urban biking course

Making signs for an urban biking course

A Kid-powered Holiday Commute — UPDATED

The results are in: Jingle bells, colored lights, yummy treats, and happy kids… we had two fantastic and fun bike to school events just before the holidays.

Serving up treats by headlamp; middle school starts early!

Serving up treats by headlamp; middle school starts early!

This was the first-ever holiday bike celebration at Eckstein, and parent organizers decorated the bike cage the night before, so that we were ready to go when the middle school bikers began to arrive at 7:15 a.m. The holiday bike to school morning was scheduled for the day before winter break, which happened to coincide with the winter solstice this year. It was the darkest morning all school year, and sure enough the early bird kids got there before twilight. Parent volunteers served donuts and cider by headlamp!

In Seattle, middle schoolers end up biking in the dark this time of year, so getting them lit up is essential. We’ve been doling out bike lights at the last few events, and were happy to see that all of the arriving kids had front and rear lights for their bikes. One or two kids needed upgrades, and we were happy to provide them.

For Bryant, this was the second annual holiday bike ramble. Once again, we met at Top Pot Doughnuts for festivities before riding and walking to school as a group. Several families came with their bikes already decorated — including an extracycle with a Charlie Brown tree on the snapdeck! — and we had plenty of decorations available so others could join in the fun.

It’s always great when the school administration participates in these events, and in this case, Bryant’s principal joined us for the festivities. The Seattle Police Department was also on hand to help control the route, with two cruisers and three bike cops who said that once again helping kids get to school on their own power was a lot more fun than their other police work!

Enjoying treats and festivities before the ride to school.

Enjoying treats and festivities before the ride to school.

New for this year, we added some holiday music to the mix at both schools. An iphone with a Rhapsody playlist and one small powered speaker was enough to provide just a little background music. Along with lights, tinsel, and other decorations, the music really added to the holiday mood.

For me, one big highlight of the morning was chatting at length with a middle schooler who rides his bike to school every day. He was the first one to show up at Eckstein, and we had some time to talk a bit before the rest of the Eckstein bikers began to arrive.

This 7th grade biker began riding to school at Wedgwood Elementary in 5th grade, and he never missed a beat when he entered Eckstein. As a sixth grader last year, he was part of our inaugural year of the Eckstein Bikes! program. He reported that riding to school is a blast, and sheepishly mentioned that he didn’t even learn to ride a bike until he was 10 years old. Now he rides every day. Clearly he is a fast learner!

Can’t wait to do it again next year! Happy New Year!

Group ride to Bryant

Group ride to Bryant

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Original Post

What better way to celebrate the holidays than with a community bike or walk to school event? And what better way to demonstrate that walking or biking in the Seattle winter is a viable and even fun way to get to school?

Are you planning an event at your school? A couple of schools are, with rumors of colored lights, holiday outfits, bike decorating, treats, jingle bells, and maybe even a little music.

At Bryant we’ve done this before, and it was a huge hit last time. Okay, admittedly there was a little less turnout than on a beautiful spring day, but we learned that a surprising number of families will show up to bike or walk in the rain, especially if you throw in some holiday festivities.

There is something about gathering with the community to celebrate the holidays and the fun of kid-powered transportation. There is also the great feeling of accomplishment when kids get to school under their own power on a truly wet and chilly Seattle December morning. And who knows, maybe this will be the year that it’s dry and sunny!

One of the goals at Bryant last year was to expand the time of year when families walk or bike, and to encourage that with at least an occasional event in the “off-season.” It’s pretty well-established to host bike events in May and walk events in October, but ultimately we want families to opt for active transportation year-round!

A bonus this year is that the Friday before Seattle Public Schools’ holiday break happens to be the winter solstice, yet another reason to celebrate by getting a group together to walk or bike.

Events are planned at Eckstein and Bryant. We’ll let you know how it goes. And if you have something planned at your school too, feel free to share some ideas.

Happy Holidays!

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