Monday, November 15, 2010

Oak Cliff Texas Bike to School Program Gets 100 Kids In First Week


I saw this video earlier today and had to share it. This was created by the advocacy group Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, in Texas. They noticed that their local elementary schools had little to no children bicycling to school, and after doing some research learned that this is an alarming trend occuring throughout the nation. According to the FHA, 50% of children bicycled to school in 1969. Today, it’s under 15%. At their local school, it was rare to ever see a child on a bike…in fact, the line to drop kids off by car stretches a half mile through the neighborhood (which is ironic given that 90% of the children live within a half mile radius of the school). After reading up on Safe Routes to School programs, and other initiatives to promote getting kids to walk and bike more, BFOC decided to try and put together a “Bike to School” week initiative to see if we could turn things around.

They set to work creating punch cards for the kids, making “I BIKE Rosemont” t-shirts, and partnering with the school’s art teachers to have children make bike posters. Their goal was ambitious: to have 100 kids bicycle to school by the last day.  On the first day 21 kids biked in…their fear was that it might hold steady throughout the week.  On the second, they were shocked to see the number double to 54.  On the third day they hit 82 and realized they might make their goal earlier than anticipated. By Thursday 100 children were bicycling to school.

Friday afternoon, Oak Cliff's Kiddical Mass ride went to Eno’s for Root Beer floats. Nearly 75 kids joined the one mile ride, laughing and smiling the entire way. The most exciting part was hearing the kids say that they wanted to ride to school everyday now. The money raised from t-shirt sales is going to install a bike rack (none exists at the school campus).

BFOC asked parents why they hadn’t let their kids ride to school, the fear cited most often was fear of being hit by a car. After reviewing the infrastructure around the school, it was noted that the road fronting the upper campus school (grades 3-5) had been converted to a one-way/three lane during school zone hours, which gives higher priority to cars and dramatically decreases the perception of safety for those considering walking or bicycling. It also reduces safety when crossing the street at intersections.  The lower campus (grades K – 2) had three dedicated lanes built to front the school, and a two lane slip lane which allowed entrance into the campus. All total, 5 lanes of auto traffic came in and out of this campus, making the area feel all but hostile to kids even considering getting on a bike.

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