One Friday morning last February it was pouring buckets of rain. I was at El Dorado Elementary (Visitacion Valley near Mansell) at 7:45 am to welcome the students who walked and rolled to school with their boots and umbrellas. A teacher in full rain gear rolled his bike past us, water streaming off his clothes, pack and bike. The next month when I saw the same teacher park his bicycle in the Bessie Carmichael schoolyard in SoMa and fetch a huge cart of brightly colored drums, I knew I had to find out more about him.
His name is Peter Sroka, and he is a music teacher for SF Unified School District. He’s been biking to school from his home in Buena Vista Heights regularly for the past eight years. His schedule takes him to campuses across the city, from Cleveland Elementary in the Excelsior, to George Washington Carver in the Bayview, to El Dorado Elementary in Visitacion Valley. I caught up with Peter recently and discovered that he is a true Bike to School Champion.
SF Bicycle Coalition: What do you love about biking?
Peter: It wakes me up and gets me primed for the day. As a music teacher, I’m singing all day, so getting those deep breaths first thing in the morning is great for me.
What are some big changes you’ve seen over the past decade on the streets of San Francisco?
There are a lot more bike lanes everywhere and a lot more people biking.
How did you start biking to school?
When I started working for the School District, I asked my boss if anyone else biked to multiple schools and was encouraged: “You can do it.” At first I got rides to a couple of schools, but as those people moved on, now I bike every day.
What’s one fun story about your biking to school?
Well, I made sure I had a keyboard at each school, so it’s rare that I have to carry a keyboard on my bike! I teach multiple grade levels, so sometimes I’m carrying a lot of scripts and papers. Now I have a pocket-size projector and an app, so I do that less.
What advice would you give to a parent interested in biking with their child?
Do it! When kids see grownups using the bicycle as transportation, it’s something different. Biking is not just a toy.
How about advice to teachers?
At first, I thought it was too far to bike to El Dorado and G.W. Carver schools. Doing it, I discovered it took less time than the bus. I put my bike on the bus only if I get a flat tire.
With his award as a 2016 Bike to School Champion, Peter receives a complimentary membership to the SF Bicycle Coalition and can now get a break on those necessary bike repairs at SF Bicycle Coalition’s many discount partners.