BIKE TEACHERS LEAD THE WAY

Editors: This story was originally published in Issue 161 of our quarterly Tube Times magazine, one of many perks of membership in the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

San Francisco’s biking teachers are inspiring families across the city to embrace the fun and freedom of biking to school.

We caught up with one of them at the New School of San Francisco in Potrero Hill recently. Michael Ratliff is a teacher there who relies on his bike daily during his commute from Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. His bike, however, is not just your average bike. It comes equipped with MonkeyLectric lights and three speakers.

“My students hear me coming before they see me,” joked Michael. “I got the lights for safety enhancement, but people also genuinely enjoy seeing my bike.”

He has also become a teacher champion for parents who are interested in commuting by bike with their children, offering support and advice.

“Make it fun because it’s such a bonding and memory-sustaining activity,” he said that he tells them. “I wish my parents would have ridden their bikes with me when I was young.”

Meanwhile, at Rosa Parks Elementary School in the Western Addition, teacher and bike commuter Arunan Kono-Soosaipillai (pictured above with his daughter Aashna) serves as Safe Routes to School liaison and is an inspirational “roll model” for students and all community members at his school. Among the ways he supports and encourages students who bike is by leading a weekly bike train.

“It started a couple years ago with Bike & Roll to School Week, when I met families at the 16th Street BART station to bike to school from the Mission,” Arunan said. “The students wanted to keep doing it. So ever since, once a week I bike with a group from there to school.”

Arunan bikes with his family as well as with his students.

“Bikes make our lives fun. We don’t have a car so we ride everywhere,” Arunan said. “It’s bonding time for me and my daughter, who is now in high school. She started in first grade with a trail bike and she never had training wheels.”

Feeling inspired to bike to school like Arunan and Michael? Visit the new Safe Routes to School website at sfsaferoutes.org for free tips and resources on safe biking.

The Tube Times is published quarterly as one of the many benefits to members of the SF Bicycle Coalition. For a complete list of membership benefits, or to join/renew today, click here.

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