Meet Bike to School Champions Robert and Kyle

Among the 90 schools participating in SF’s Bike & Roll to School Week last month was one remarkable school sitting atop Diamond Heights where scores of students biked, skateboarded, walked and otherwise rolled uphill. So what’s the secret to the success of Bike & Roll to School Week at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts (SOTA)? We caught up with teacher Robert Francoeur and sophomore Kyle Trefny to find out.

SF Bicycle Coalition: How did you organize Bike & Roll to School Week at Ruth Asawa SOTA?

Kyle: I started at my school assembly, where over 500 students come together for the annual student government voting. I took my opportunity as Sustainability Director to bring out the big prize boxes and get the word out; the student enthusiasm was overwhelming. I then organized through follow-up reminders on social media and posters. My twin sister Erin (Lowell High School) and I both love to draw so we collaborated on making posters at home. To anyone wanting to start a similar event, make big announcement posters and put them in central school locations. I also really recommend encouraging scooterers and skateboarders. There’s a big skateboarding community at Ruth Asawa SOTA, and it was great to see them use their wheels as a positive form of commute.

Robert: Usually I’m the one organizer and only have time to get the signs up and an announcement in. As Environmental Club president, Kyle was extremely helpful in preparing for and rolling out the event. He brought back a ton of banana chips from the citywide Bike & Roll prize packing party to distribute for the first day. On Tuesday, Kyle set up a Walk and Roll event where he tabled in the hallway and rewarded students who took public transit, skateboarded, or scootered to school with the banana chips. On Thursday he set up a pizza party for the bicyclists and had them write down ideas for improving cycling in the area around the school.

What advice would you give to another high school organizer to encourage students to bike to school?

Kyle: Number One, if you’re an adult, get students involved. Many schools have student governments or other passionate young leaders, and intergenerational engagement will cultivate a more successful result.

To other students: start by notifying the existing bikers and then expand outwards. Highlight the food and prize incentives. If you include other transportation besides biking, definitely approach the skateboarders or other closely knit people.

What’s your favorite story about this year’s event?

Kyle: One fun story is that we filled up all the bike racks at school! Most days only a few people bike and the racks can look barren. Through all the hype we stirred into the event, there wasn’t a slot left!

Robert: A sweet story: at the pizza party, Kyle gave up his own slice of pizza to a cyclist who arrived after the pizza was gone!

What advice would you offer to encourage more biking to schools?

Robert: Start teaching your kids urban cycling at a young age. Take them biking all around the city.

Kyle: I can’t emphasize the significance of Robert’s point enough; I’d never have the courage to bike in San Francisco if I had not been introduced early.

Robert Francoeur has been an SF Bicycle Coalition member and advocate for better biking for many years. We hope that his partnership with Kyle inspires new teams to organize Bike & Roll to School Week and other Safe Routes to School activities at their high schools next year.

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