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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Another Family Greenway Ride!

What were the odds? As if a bike train on the newest neighborhood greenway this coming Friday weren’t enough, a family bike ride is planned for the pending Ballard greenway next Sunday!

There’s a strong bike-to-school connection for this one as well. It’s being organized by Shannon Koller, who is doing fantastic work helping kids bike to Loyal Heights Elementary, along with folks from Ballard Greenways.

The goal of the ride is to get families out riding on the funded but not yet constructed NW 58th St. neighborhood greenway to learn about this great new route that will improve access to several local schools.

From Shannon:

“You and your family are invited to a Family Bike Ride on the Ballard Greenway on Sunday, October 28 at 10 a.m.

Greenways are designed to connect people on bikes and on foot to their neighborhood destinations on low-traffic streets.  The Ballard Greenway, primarily on NW 58th Street, has been funded by the City of Seattle and is currently in the design phase.   This charming east/west route in south Ballard is scheduled to be complete in Spring 2013 and will connect us to the Burke Gilman Trail and link us to other neighborhoods.

Meet at the Ballard Commons Park (5701 22nd Ave NW) at 10 a.m. on Sunday, October 28 to ride along with us as we learn more about this exciting project.  We’ll first explore the west side of the Greenway to see how it links with the Burke Gilman Trail, pass by the Ballard Library, then explore the east side of the Greenway before returning to the Ballard Commons and on to the Ballard Farmer’s Market.  Volunteers from the Ballard Greenway will be on hand to answer questions about the project.

The ride is short (approximately 2 miles) to accommodate our younger family members.  We will encounter gentle hills, roundabouts, marked and unmarked intersections, uneven and cracked pavement, traffic lights, and a bike lane.  In other words, this will be a perfect opportunity to teach our emerging urban cyclists about how to successfully navigate these elements in a supportive and fun environment.”

Should be a great opportunity to meet other families and bike-to-school and greenways advocates while checking out NW 58th and touring the proposed greenway.

Bike train Friday morning? And a family bike ride on Sunday? Sounds like a great weekend of bike to school and greenways connections!

Celebrate a New Greenway: Join the Bike Train!

Seattle’s second neighborhood greenway is scheduled for completion, and it happens to coincide with one of our favorite walk and bike to school projects, the Thornton Creek bike trains!

The new greenway runs along 39th Ave. NE, which happens to be the southern bike train route to Thornton Creek.

Childrens Hospital is the sponsor of this new greenway through their Livable Streets Initiative. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has also been doing a great job of working with the city and with neighbors to help get greenways like this one implemented throughout Seattle. While this is only the second one constructed to date, more are planned in the coming years.

Many readers will be familiar with them, but for those who may not be, a neighborhood greenway is a local street with features that create a safer environment for walking and biking to local parks, schools, and other neighborhood destinations. Some of the best greenways will help kids and families get to school more safely.

39th Ave. NE under construction.
This connection to the BG is complete now!

Childrens recognizes that kids and families will be a primary user group of the new 39th Ave. NE project. The greenway should help Thornton Creek students — and some from Bryant and Eckstein as well — navigate their way across arterial streets and get to school a little more easily and safely. With the greenway nearing completion, Childrens has scheduled a ribbon cutting ceremony to coincide with the October 26 running of the Thornton Creek bike train!

What could be cooler than a bike train on a greenway? Greenways and bike trains are two new cutting edge walk and bike initiatives here in Seattle, and it’s really fun to see them connected in this way. Hopefully this event will help demonstrate to the community the value and fun of both neighborhood greenways and of kids walking and biking to school.

Here are the details for next Friday’s event. While it’s timed for the departure of the bike train, neighbors and other community members are welcome to join too.

Riding with the Thornton Creek bike train is really fun and inspiring. If you have a chance, swing by the southern station next Friday morning and hop on board!

The Thornton Creek bike train rolling along last spring.
The greenway project has improved these arterial crossings.

Bryant Walking School Buses

CALLING ALL BRYANT FAMILIES:

Bryant Elementary’s Walking School Buses start this coming Friday!

We’ll be gathering at four meet-up points (see map below):

30th Ave NE and NE 60th St

33rd Ave Ne and NE 55th St

32nd Ave NE and NE 62nd St

36th Ave NE and NE 60th St

The schedule is pretty simple:

8:50 am Gather at one of the 4 meeting points. Meet other Bryant parents and kids. Enjoy TREATS!

9:05 am Start walking (or biking, scootering, roller skating, etc.) to school along the routes outlined on the map.

9:15 am Arrive to Bryant in an awesome displayof kid-powered transport!

We’ll be doing walking school buses with treats and festivities each  Friday in October:

Oct. 5, 19, and 26

(no school on Oct.12)

Meet up at 8:50 a.m. at any of the red stars.

See the link below to download or print the Walking School Bus poster. Hope you can join us!

Bryant Elementary Walking School Bus Poster

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.

Wedgwood/Bryant Combined Doughnut Meet-up+Ride

Doughnuts from Top Pot for bike to school riders

Meet up with kid and parent riders from NE sister elementary schools Bryant and Wedgwood. Combined meet-ups are planned during the month of May.

Meet at Top Pot Doughnuts at 8:00 for a doughnut (and coffee for parents) before an in-street ride/parade to the respective schools.

NOTE: This shouldn’t need to be said, but just in case: All children should be comfortable riding in a crowd of other kids, (wobble -free steering and solid braking ability required!), and be accompanied by a parent or guardian for the doughnut event AND ride. Volunteers will help keep the crowd together and assist at crossings, but Parents are responsible for judging the ability of their children and are ultimately responsible for their child’s safe arrival at school. Participation in the event should be fun time, but is solely at your own risk.

April 3: Wedgwood Parents, Get on Board the Bike-train!

Bike Train Poster

Maya Jacobs, a University of Washington Senior, will be hosting a meeting for Wedgwood Elementary parents to organize group bike rides to school for children. If you are interested in being a part of planning these rides, or simply would like to know more about the rides and similar rides in other schools, please attend the meeting on April 3rd at 6:30pm at the Northeast Branch of the Seattle Public Library!

For more information contact Maya at maya29(at)uw(dot)edu with “Wedgwood bike rides” in your subject.

More about Maya and the program on the ViewRidge/Komo Blog.

See you next Tuesday!