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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Training Students to Bike to School

By Sarah Hadler
This beautiful late summer weather is the perfect time to get yourself and your child in the habit of biking to school. It will also help your family to gear up to celebrate International Walk and Roll to School Day on Wednesday, October 5th.

Last year, 73 schools and more than 10,600 students in Sonoma County participated. This year, we are expecting even more! If you would like information on how your school can join the fun please contact: Tina Panza at: or (707) 545-0153.

There are many reasons why it is good to bike to school: it’s healthy and a wonderful way for your child to get his/her daily exercise, it cuts down on traffic congestion around your school – and around town, it’s good for the environment, it saves money, it increases your child’s sense of independence, and -- my favorite reason -- it’s super fun!

Here are some tips and tools that will help get your family ready to bike to school.

Always be sure to do an “ABC Quick Check” before you ride; you can teach your child to do this as well. “A” stands for air, make sure the tires are pumped up; “B” stands for brakes, squeeze your brakes to make sure they work; “C” stands for chain, your chain should be well oiled and move smoothly when you pedal, and pants legs should be rolled up and shoe laces tucked in so they do not get caught in the chain; and lastly, check your quick releases on the wheels and seat to make sure they are tight.

Now, put on your helmet and make sure it fits snugly. The handy dandy two finger helmet check is key to a good helmet fit: there should be a two-finger space between your eyebrows and your helmet rim, next, make a “v” with your two fingers and that’s what your helmet straps below your ears should look like, and finally, no more than two fingers should fit between your chin and chin strap.

Wear bright colors --drivers will see you better.

Always ride on the right side of the road with traffic, even if your child is young and feels safer on the sidewalk.

Be careful around driveways and parked cars.

Always obey traffic signs and signals.

If you are riding at dawn, dusk or at night, you must have a front light and at least a red rear reflector, the more lights the better because you are safer when you are more visible.

For additional bicycle skills training, take Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition’s (BikeSonoma) “Street Skills for Bike Riders” class, and pass your skills along to your child. Teens ages 12 &
 up can take it, too. Info at

Remember that a half mile bike ride takes about 6 minutes, so you and your child might make it to school faster on bikes than in a car! There is great gear out there that makes it easier for you and your child to carry things on a bike. Consider getting a rear rack and some panniers (bags that hang on the rear rack) and your child’s ride to school will be even easier. Ask at your local bike store for some help in selecting the necessary equipment
Think about leading a bike train! Biking is always more fun with a friend or a group of friends and International Walk and Roll to School Day would be a great day to get a bike train started. Get together kids in your neighborhood or your child’s friends and choose one or two days of the week to bike to school together. Go over these tips about biking safely before you start out and you and your child will become biking experts before you know it

Sarah Hadler is a program manager for Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition’s Safe Routes to School Program

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