Did your family enjoy more time on your bikes this summer? You can put your child’s improved skills to use and start the school year with a new healthy habit: biking to school.
Children who walk or bike to school arrive awake, alert and ready to learn. Studies show that physical fitness contributes to academic success. Everyone benefits when more families choose to get an active start to the morning: with fewer drivers on the road, there are safer streets, and less car exhaust around your school for everyone walking and biking. And when you bike with your child to school, you’re also getting that natural energy boost from starting your day on two wheels.
Many parents do not realize how close they live to their school. Check the distance on Google Maps or with an odometer: you may be surprised. Over 40 percent of public elementary school students in San Francisco lived within one mile of their school in 2015-16. Most children age 8 or older can bike up to two miles in less than 30 minutes, even when you take into account traffic lights and hills. Here’s one way to calculate. If you haven’t biked to school before, try the bike ride on a weekend first to learn the best route and get an idea of how long it will take.
Infrastructure: What if there are no bike lanes on part or all of your route to school? Remember that children up to age 13 may ride on the sidewalk, while the adult rides parallel in the street.
Distance: If you live more than two miles from school or your route is not bikable for a young child, taking transit to school also provides the benefit of a little morning exercise. So does parking your car a distance of at least four blocks from school, and biking or walking from there.
Time is the biggest concern for parents on busy weekday mornings. Consider this: when you can build in the time to walk or bike with your child, you make your commute more special and less stressful. Exercise is as important as a healthy breakfast to get the day off to a good start. There’s the added benefit of community-building at your school: you can meet and greet other parents and hear school announcements in the yard.
Safe Routes to School
If you are a proficient biking family, why not encourage friends and neighbor families to join the pedal-powered movement? Ask at your school office if there’s a Safe Routes to School program at your school. You can meet other biking and walking families in the program, or help start something new. Resources for parents can be found at sfsaferoutes.org.
To get support for going on-road with your family, invite a “bike train” leader to meet with you or other parents: contact firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out all the bike events for families coming up on our SF Bicycle Coalition events calendar.