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Biking to Bryant Elementary up 50%, proof we can break the dangerous school drop-off cycle

From the Eckstein Bikes Facebook page

143 Bryant Elementary students biked to school in May. That’s a quarter of the school population (not even counting the kids who walked).

Anyone who has ever been near a school at drop-off or (worse) pick-up times has witnessed the dangerous insanity caused by so many people in cars frustratingly trying to move kids around. Parents, fearful of their child walking or biking around so many cars, choose to drive them instead, creating a vicious car-dependent cycle. Navigating this insanity is likely the most dangerous thing a child will do each day.

But there is a way out, and Bryant Elementary is showing us the way. From the Eckstein Bikes Facebook page:

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Another huge bike to school success story. Bryant has had a bike to school program for about six years, but this was their biggest Bike to School Month ever. Check out these numbers: 143 kids participated in May, riding over 1300 round trips to and from school. This was over a 50% increase from last year!

39 of the kids rode at least 15 times. And here’s our favorite number… 18 Bryant kids rode to school every single day! I think they are hooked! No wonder the racks are so full.

Oh, and three teachers rode as well! Thanks for being great role models!

And it’s not just a NE Seattle thing. It’s happening all over the city.

Seattle Public Schools has noticed the success, and they are making a concerted effort to make biking and walking to school a key part of their transportation plan. Safe walking and biking routes will be designated for every school, and walking school buses and bike trains are encouraged. With schools around the country still facing bike-to-school bans, this is is a good measure of how far Seattle has come.

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27 responses to “Biking to Bryant Elementary up 50%, proof we can break the dangerous school drop-off cycle”

  1. merlin

    This is very exciting news – and especially good to know some of the teachers participated.

    1. Clint

      Merlin — I agree, it’s really great when teachers and staff participate as well. They are a fantastic role model for the students. At Eckstein, we had even more staff — fourteen of them — who rode to school at least one day during Bike to School Month! And several of them were leaders or frequent participants in the student incentive events as well.

      It turns out that District-wide, their are a lot of staff who participate in Bike to Work/School Month. My sense is there is huge interest among staff. That said, at this time I don’t believe the District provides any particular support or incentives for this (based on discussions with a couple of teachers who ride). I think this would be a great area of focus for the new superintendent.

  2. WP

    There are bike to school BANS in some places? WHaaaaa?!?!

    1. Bike Bend

      Yes – some places actually BAN bicycling to school! [http://www.bicycling.com/news/advocacy/why-johnny-cant-ride]

    2. Jeremy

      Some folks think cars are the bestest idea ever, population soon learns that cars are a little dangerous, so for safety create situations that demand even more vehicles be used, whoops downward spiral into car hell. Reclaiming livable streets, neighborhoods, and cities will have to be worked out at the block, school, and cultural level.

  3. Ed

    As someone who struck a pot hole around a turn, on my way home from elementary school at age 11 1/2 (6th grade), and suffered a severe head injury (helmets did not exist then) I do wonder what sort of increase we are seeing in bicycling related injuries due to a sharp increase in cycling. Perhaps the car situation there is “dangerous insanity” but I am personal proof that cycling isn’t risk free either.

    I am now an adult who continues to ride a bike. I’m just pointing out we need to be careful with blind enthusiasm for cycling by kids (and adults), and it would be irresponsible to not track and understand the safety and injury issues that likely accompany such a large increase in young riders.

    1. Andres

      Do we currently track injuries related to school drop-offs in cars? Specifically those parents who not only injure themselves or their children on the way to school, but also injure others (pedestrian, cyclist, or motorist)? I’m unaware of such a thing, but I’d love to be corrected.

      If not, then that seems like the data wouldn’t be very useful..

      1. Ed

        By WA State law, motor vehicle accidents involving any injuries to people are required to be reported to the police, as are collisions involving at least $700 in property damage to any personal property.

        This applies to motor vehicles, not to bicycles. Hence, if students are being injured in relation to vehicles going to and from schools, there should be a public record of this information. A lot of this data is available online at the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration.

        Bicycle related injuries, if they do not involve motor vehicles, are not required to be reported unless police respond. Which creates a problem in producing accurate estimates of injury rates for cycling.

        I can think of numerous bike crashes that have caused broken wrists, lacerations requiring sutures, road rash requiring medical attention and more – and all were handled by the cyclists and others who took someone for medical care, hence, no police report either. I saw these because I either was in a large group ride or a volunteer with large group rides, where crashes happen.

        To answer your question, yes, motor vehicle related injuries are required by law to be reported. Bicycle related injuries not involving a motor vehicle (pot holes, road hazards) do not and usually are not reported.

      2. Andres

        Please note the difference of what you asked for, and what you explained. I’m all for bicycle accident reports. I think it’s silly to track that only for school transit, because you don’t have motor vehicle records for that. You can’t say “X people were injured biking to school, while Y people were injured or injured otherwise while driving to school”. You can only say that Y people were injured while driving, while X people were injured while biking to school. There’s a difference, and the latter would end up sounding scary (if it was more than 0), while the former would end up being rationalized as “oh, well that’s _all_ car trips. driving to school is safe!”

        Note that what you explained (motor vehicle accidents are required to be reported, and therefore cyclist accidents should also be reported) is different from what I asked for (..on the way to school). Those are very different things. We have records of motor vehicle accidents, but

      3. Andres

        Argh, ignore the last paragraph in that post. That’s what I get for trying to post with a 3-month-old yelling on my lap.

    2. doug

      Pretty sure the number of kids riding their bike to school won’t reach historical highs for a long time.

      It is true that kids make up a disproportionate number of mishaps on a cycle. Some have proposed the drop in cycling injuries since the 1970s is due to the fact that fewer kids are riding.

  4. Mondoman

    Ed’s story sounds like another good reason for Seattle to clear up its backlog of road repair :)
    I am glad to read this story, though! When I was a kid, probably 2/3 to 90% of the kids either walked or rode their bikes to my elementary, junior high, and high schools (of course, those with driver’s licenses wanted to drive to high school, but not all parents let them!). With our increased knowledge of how healthful even 10-15 minutes of daily walking is for weight control and general health, this is a big win-win-win!

  5. Clint

    In the six or so years that the Bike to Bryant program has been established and growing, we haven’t had any injuries. Safety is a priority, and one of the basic tenets is that we ask parents to participate, and to be responsible for their own children. So this isn’t about turning elementary kids loose to ride to school; it’s about encouraging families to try commuting under their own power. So far it’s working.

    For this year’s largest ridership day — Bike to School Day — we had many of the families riding as a group. For that ride, we asked for and got a police escort, which helped a lot with safety with so many bikes and kids traveling along one common route. The kids (and parents) loved seeing the SPD turn out to help us too!

  6. mike

    I cringe thinking about children on bikes in Seattle’s busy urban neighborhoods during the morning commutes.

    Afternoons going home are calmer, and safer.

    1. Clint

      Many neighborhoods have quiet, non-arterial streets, and those are the ones to ride on with children. It’s also key for parents to ride with the kids. Check out some footage of a recent bike train to Thornton Creek to get an idea:
      Yes, the arterials are busy, and are not recommended for riding with kids. Crossing them can be a challenge, and it’s best to choose crossings that have a light, a crossing guard, or at least a crosswalk. Again, parents need to supervise. Hopefully Neighborhood Greenways and the next Bicycle Master Plan update will help improve conditions further on these neighborhood streets.

      Often the most traffic is right around school. One interesting thing we’ve noticed is that — by slowly increasing the number of kids riding to Bryant over time — there is more awareness by motorists now than six years ago that they should be watching for kids and families cycling to school. It has literally become part of the expected traffic of the neighborhood.

      Rather than “cringe” just based on the idea, I’d invite you to come out for a ride to school one morning. It’s incredibly inspiring.

  7. Hot damn, this thread brought the concern trolls out in force.

    walks away whistling

  8. RTK

    My wife and kids participate in one of the Wedgwood Elementary bike trains. It has been a very positive experience for them to join a bike train instead of just riding by themselves to school. I’m with Al, this thread headed off in a strange direction. Happy, healthy, fit kids, now what were we talking about?

  9. wave

    I was once an everyday bike commuter from my house in Cap Hill to downtown. Then I made a shift to walking, prefering the less stressful experience you get on the sidewalk as opposed to in the street. But now my kids (1st and 3rd grade at Stevens) have become obsessed with biking to school, and I am once again biking to work everyday after first biking to school with the kids. It’s been very gratifying to see my kids get so into being active and wanting to bike, regardless of the weather. Some days I’d prefer to just drive them to school, but they actually complain about it and plead with me to let them bike to school! At Stevens we had a very successful bike to school month in May, with well over 50 bikes in the racks in front of the school every day (well over the capacity of the racks), even on the very rainiest days, and something like 70 or 80 on bike to school day.

    1. merlin

      wow, wonderful. Way to go, kids!

  10. Clint

    Great to hear from other schools. I know Stevens has had great success. Wedgwood’s program is new, but was off to a great start this year. Wedgwood and Bryant had a couple of combined meet-ups on bike to school mornings, which was very cool. You got a real sense of a growing movement.

    There were some fantastic sucesses this year at other schools too — Adams Elementary, Salmon Bay, Ballard High, and others.

    Check out walkbikeschools.wordpress.com for an overview of some of the efforts throughout the city. We’re also having a citywide planning meeting next week for walk and bike to school programs; interested folks are welcome to attend.

    I also thought some readers might appreciate a video of Bryant’s bike to school day group ride, complete with police escort.

    1. RTK

      Yes, the Friday morning ride by Top Pot was a big incentive. I know the Wedgwood and Bryant kids crossed paths there. A shout out to Top Pot for all the free donuts they provided.

  11. jean

    This shows the importance of neighborhood schools and school boundaries. We typiclaly walk to school EVERY day, but we biked during BTSM at Bryant.

    During the rounds of drawing boundaries, we had been drawn out even though we are 0.5 mile from school (while 2/3 or 3/4 of those within that boundary were a lot farther than 0.5 miles from the school.) My argument had been that distance matters! You can not create walkability (and bikability.) You can only destroy it. I hope that the Seattle Public School Board Members see this story and know that in several cases they did the right thing by drawing practical, environmental, and healthy broundaries for schools and neighborhoods. Unfortunately there were still many, many examples where they destroyed this resource or walkability.

    Way to go kids and parents! Thanks to the volunteers who made it happen.

    1. RTK

      Couldn’t agree more, let’s build communities around schools. Creating boundaries that promote walking and biking. If Seattle schools focused on this it might prove to be a huge cost savings due to a reduction in the need for bus transport.

    2. wave

      They did a good job of drawing the Stevens boundary in this respect. When you look at it on the map you might think it odd, being very long skinny (between 14th and 23rd Aves, and stretching from Interlaken down to Cherry). But because of where it is, up on top of Cap Hill, it’s quite conducive to biking. We have friends who live down south of Union (1.5 miles from Stevens) who bike every day, and it’s easy because there’s no hills (it’s all on top of the hill) and relatively few arterials to cross.

  12. […] has made efforts to increase biking and has seen the opposite result, an increase in safety due to decreased traffic. These planning guidelines can help reverse this trend, detailing the needs of schools, from site […]

  13. […] Cycling in the area has been anchored by the Burke-Gilman Trail for decades, and residents have in recent years been building momentum for more intra-neighborhood connectivity to help families get to schools, parks and local commercial destinations safely and easily. It’s due to this work that several of the area’s schools—like Bryant and Eckstein—are leaders in the city-wide bike-to-school revolution. […]

  14. […] to school advocate Anne King, who lives in Northeast Seattle and was one powerful force behind the very successful Bike to Bryant Elementary […]

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