May 7 Is National Bike to School Day!

May 06, 2014

A healthy, active commute starts the school day right

Healthy students make better learners, and when schools incorporate physical activity, they’re boosting kids’ brain power and instilling healthy habits. But with schools always looking to maximize time and resources, it’s important to get creative outside of class time. One strategy: encourage biking to school!

May 7 marks the third annual Bike to School Day, from the National Center for Safe Routes to School. Join other parents and community members in your area, and see just how easy it can be. If it’s not practical for your family to bike the entire route, try meeting up with bikes at a designated location.

Last year, more than 1,700 schools across the country participated, an 80 percent increase since the event’s first year. Momentum is building — and it’s easy to see why. Biking is fun, promotes independence and starts kids’ days off right. Not to mention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least one hour of physical activity per day for children and adolescents.

Here in Chicago, Belding Elementary principal Heather Yutzy says that Bike to School Day provides another opportunity to highlight the importance of physical activity. The school, which is holding its event a couple days later on May 9, will host a wellness fair and other fun activities. Plus, representatives from the Active Transportation Alliance will promote bike safety with helmet fittings, safe signalling techniques and more. Parent volunteers are stepping up to help, along with volunteers from the local Target store.

It’s part of the school’s push for biking to become more widespread. Yutzy says, “I looked out this morning and four kids had parked bikes here. So we arranged for a new safe patio area where kids can lock up their bikes.”

These efforts align with the school’s new School Improvement Plan, she said.

Belding is one of 25 schools that have been working with Active Transportation Alliance as part of the district’s Healthy CPS initiative. Active Trans is working with each school to develop a Safe Routes Action Plan, which will provide school-specific recommendations on how to improve the number and safety of students walking and biking to and from school.

Charlie Short of the Active Transportation Alliance has a few tips for potential bikers (these work for walkers, too!):

1) Practice on a quiet day, like a Sunday. “If you already know where you’re going to go, you can focus not on your destination but on safety,” he says.

2) Reach out to other parents, and see who else in the school is interested in trying a more active route.

3) Try to work with your school. “Show that it’s easy to do,” he says. “Schools will be supportive if they understand it’s an option for kids who live close enough.”

HSC, like Active Trans, is working under the Healthy CPS initiative — our focus is parent engagement. We applaud the amazing, active students (and their supportive parents, teachers and principals!) who are biking to school on May 7!